To look on the bright side, Americans don’t disagree about everything. One issue in particular seems to bring them together in near-perfect accord: Are we a unified nation after more than a year-and-a-half of President Joe Biden? Americans overwhelmingly answer no, the latest I&I/TIPP Poll shows.
To gauge the ongoing unity zeitgeist, each month the I&I/TIPP Poll asks Americans whether “the United States is: Very united. Somewhat united. Somewhat divided. Very divided. Not sure.”
The data make for depressing reading. Among those responding to the poll, taken Aug. 2-4 from online surveys of 1,335 adults across the county, 74% described the U.S. as “Divided,” versus just 24% who called it “United.” The poll has a margin of error of +/-2.8 percentage points.
And among all survey participants, the No. 1 response was “very divided,” with 43% answering this. No. 2 was “somewhat divided,” at 30%. By comparison, just 8% of the entire survey called America “very united,” while 16% described it as “somewhat united.” Just 2% were “not sure.”
For a country whose very name includes the word “United,” that’s notable.
President Biden even made “unity” the key theme of his post-2020 victory speech:
“I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide, but to unify; who doesn’t see red states and blue states, only sees the United States.”
“It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again, listen to each other again,” Biden added. “And to make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as enemies.”
This was the early genesis of the I&I/TIPP Unity Index.
Of all the promises to emerge from the Biden campaign, his pledge to bring America back together again after years of bitter political and cultural acrimony resonated with Americans across the political spectrum.
But it didn’t happen, as the most recent I&I/TIPP Poll shows. And both parties agree on that.
Among Democrats, 64% call America “divided,” while 32% call it “united.” For Republicans, 82% termed the U.S. divided vs. just 16% united. And among independents, it was a near-identical 82% to 17%.
That’s not say there aren’t some interesting and telling demographic differences. For instance, among those under age 44, a solid 33% still believe the U.S. remains united, compared to 64% who say we’re divided.
A different picture emerges for those 45 years old and older: A mere 16% called us united, half the younger group’s response; and 82% described us as divided, 18 percentage points higher than the youngsters.
By gender, women were far more pessimistic on the unity/division question than men. While just 18% of women called America united, 31% of men did. Conversely, 79% of women saw America as divided, compared to just 68% of men.
There was a minority split as well, but not perhaps in a direction you might expect. Some 41% of Hispanics and 32% of Blacks believe America is united. That compares with just 18% of Whites. Within the White demographic group, 81% called the U.S. divided, compared with just 61% of minorities, a 20-point difference.
Another way to look at it is to parse I&I/TIPP’s Unity Index by month, which allows for comparisons of the data over time.
The index began on April 21, with an initial value of 37.8. It has since declined. In August, the index stood at 28.5, the second-lowest reading ever and down 2.2 percentage points from July. Since the start of 2022, the Unity Index has averaged 30.3, down significantly from 34.9 for the preceding nine months.
The trend is down, not up.
Why is this happening? Two major reasons loom large.
One is, after his initial promising rhetoric of wanting to seek “not to divide, but to unify,” President Biden’s speeches have become far more divisive in both tone and content.
Last week’s fundraising speech is a case in point.
Biden delivered one of the most intentionally divisive speeches in U.S. history, describing the beliefs of the 73.6 million people who supported former President Trump in 2020 as “semi-fascism.”
“What we’re seeing now is the beginning or the death knell of an extreme MAGA philosophy. It’s not just Trump, it’s the entire philosophy . . . it’s like semi-fascism,” Biden told a small group of supporters attending last Thursday’s Democratic National Committee “Build a Better America” rally at a high school in Rockville, Maryland.
“Trump and the extreme MAGA Republicans have made their choice,” Biden said. “To go backwards, full of anger, violence, hate and division.
“We’re at a serious moment in our nation’s history,” he added. “The MAGA Republicans don’t just threaten our personal rights and economic security, they’re a threat to our very democracy. They refuse to accept the will of the people, they embrace political violence.”
Nor did the unprecedented Aug. 8 FBI raid on President Trump’s Mar-A-Lago, seizing boxes of presidential documents, create a feeling of goodwill among the various political groups in our country. That’s especially true after the revelation that, despite early denials, President Biden and his staff knew about the raid.
Nor do the media help. A Rasmussen survey taken in late August, for example, shows that 62% of Americans said media bias is getting worse, while just 10% said it’s getting better.
Our own I&I/TIPP Alternative and Traditional Media Indexes likewise show a serious problem for the media, which Americans overwhelmingly believe should focus on delivering the news, not propaganda.
The Traditional Media Index slipped to 39.8 in August, only the fourth time since its start in March 2021 that this gauge of trust in the media fell below 40. Its companion Alternate Media Index dropped to 34.4 in August, its second lowest ever.
No doubt, these feelings extend to Hollywood and the Big Tech complex, which aggressively push a “woke” agenda on the country but are fast losing support among average Americans.
Why are the media a unity issue? Because when America can no longer trust its long-standing providers of news and information to do the job fairly, without bias and with a respect for facts, they must rely on rumors, innuendoes and gossip — the very things that foster division, not unity.
Each month, I&I/TIPP publishes polling data on this topic and others of broad public interest. TIPP’s reputation for excellence comes from being the most accurate pollster for the past five presidential elections.
Terry Jones is an editor of Issues & Insights. His four decades of journalism experience include serving as national issues editor, economics editor, and editorial page editor for Investor’s Business Daily.