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The divided states: It turns out the U.S. is more divided than just about any other industrialized nation

The degree of difference across left and right in the U.S. dwarfed those gaps in the U.K., France and Germany. 

You will hardly be surprised that many Americans see our poor, dear old nation as more divided in the Trump and post-Trump period than we have been in a long time. It’s become familiar to see evidence of this divide. But in his opening essay on Sunday’s edition of his show, “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” host Zakaria put up some impressive poll numbers that highlighted not only those differences, but how much they separate us from most of our peer nations in the developed world.

Repeating several themes from his latest column for the Washington Post, Zakaria kicked off his show with numbers (in each case from a 2020 Pew Research Center Survey poll of U.S. adults) that clearly illustrate both our division and how different it renders us. For example, as Zakaria summarized in his weekly column:

“Asked whether the country would be ‘better off in the future if it sticks to its traditions and way of life,’ 65 percent on the right said ‘yes,’ vs. just 6 percent on the left, a 59-point gap

That compares with a 19-point gap in tradition-bound France. 

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Asked whether being Christian was a crucial aspect of being a citizen of the country, the lefty-righty gap in the United States was 23 points, compared to just seven points in Britain. 

That we are far more divided, across many issues and attitudes, is no surprise. But, citing one Pew poll question after another, Zakaria shows just how divided we are.

In 2018, for example, in the middle of Trump’s term, Pew asked people in 27 rich countries whether religion should play a larger role in their societies. 

“In America, 71 percent of people who identified as conservative said ‘yes,’ while just 29 percent of liberals agreed. That difference — 42 percentage points — was off the charts compared to the other countries. The gap was 17 percentage points larger than those in the next-highest countries analyzed (Canada and Poland), and roughly four times the gap between right and left in Sweden and Germany.”

You get the idea, but I’ll give you one more

In a test of what you might see as the backlash against ‘political correctness’ in U.S. culture, Pew asked whether “people today are too easily offended by what others say.”

In the United States, 76 percent of those on the right agreed, compared with 32 percent on the left, a gap of 44 percentage points across the divide. But in France the difference between those who agreed with the proposition was just six percentage points, with 46 percent of lefties saying yes and 54 percent of those on the right saying the same.

As you can see, the questions were perhaps all the more interesting because they aren’t the kind of questions pollsters usually ask. Still, in case after case, the degree of difference across left and right in the not-so-united United States dwarfed the gap in the U.K., France and Germany, three European states we normally view as our peer nations. 

Read the full column.