Numbers don’t lie, the science is settled, thanks to the latest opinion research by the Pew Research Centre: the right is more tolerant than the left. How much? Almost three times as much:
While most people are sensible and mature adults who don’t determine or judge their friendships through a political lens (nearly three quarters of the population actually), minorities on both sides of the spectrum take it all too seriously: while some 13 per cent of Americans who identify as or lean Republican say it would put a strain on friendship if a friend voted for Hillary Clinton, almost three times as many, or 35 per cent of Americans who identify as or lean Democrat say it would put a strain on friendship if a friend voted for Donald Trump.
Again thanks to Pew, we can have a closer look at the make-up of that strained 35 per cent of the left:
Who are the most intolerant of friends’ political views? White, college educated, left-leaning. In other words, the cultural and the economic elite of the country. So while a sociology professor might struggle to decide whether or not to talk to his Trump-voting golfing buddy, the professor’s minimally schooled Hispanic maid is likely to be only half as bothered (or twice as relaxed) about her friend’s voting choices.
It’s not all that gloomy, however; firstly, as mentioned before, because most people just don’t care that much about these things, and secondly because for all the differences there is also some general good will:
Despite their political differences, most Republicans and Democrats stop short of saying that people in the other party do not share their other values and goals beyond politics. Among both parties, about four-in-ten (41% of Republicans and 38% of Democrats) say that members of the opposing party “feel differently about politics, and they probably don’t share many of my other values and goals either.” (Note: these questions are based on partisans and do not include those who lean toward the parties).
Majorities in both parties say the other side probably shares their other values and goals: Nearly six-in-ten Democrats (59%) say this about Republicans, while 56% of Republicans say it about Democrats.
Why such a big disparity in “friendship straining” between the right and the left (13 versus 35 per cent)?
Again, I can think of the oft-quoted (including in this blog) old saying: the right thinks the left is wrong, the left thinks the right is evil. This is of course a generalisation, or rather an overgeneralisation, as the research quoted above again suggests. The majority, even of the politically switched-on people, doesn’t think in such crude and Manichean terms. But a significant minority does. If you think that Hillary Clinton is a hopeless candidate you will likely just shrug when your buddies vote for her; if, on the other hand, you think that Donald Trump is Hitler, well, what does it say about the judgment and the moral character of your friend who votes for him? Possibly a fascist him/herself. You should have seen the signs, have you not been too blinded by your twenty years of friendship from the college onward. Just goes to show, you never know someone until they pull that lever and leave a hanging chad.
So as part of the 85 per cent of Republicans who don’t care if their friends have voted for Hillary (well, I’m not an American, but if I were one of y’all, I would be), I’m going to do tonight what I recommend we all do: I’m going to hug a leftie and try to make the world a nicer place.