Modern technology has made it easier for people to surround themselves solely with opinions they agree with, which leads to increased polarization, CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference keynoter Amy Walter told attendees Wednesday.
A longtime political analyst, Walter shared her thoughts on the rise of “deep, intense partisanship” and what it means in the 2018 elections and beyond.
“More and more people now identify as independents, but they vote a straight ticket,” she says. “The reason they’re not identifying with a party is because they don’t see themselves as part of, or standing for, what the party stands for as much as they stand against what the other side is.”
Voters today are as motivated to vote someone out of office as they are to vote someone in, Walter says. “Pew Research asked active voters what they thought about the other party, and 41% of Democrats and 52% of Republicans think the other party is a threat to the nation’s well-being—an actual threat.”
Part of this, she notes, is that in politics, one needs to speak to the “angry haters,” because “angry haters go out and vote.”
She notes that an incumbent president’s party generally loses seats in Congress in the following mid-term elections, and when that president has an approval rating under 50%, it can be enough seats to change the balance of either chamber.
Going forward, Walter says voters, politicians, and the media will need to reckon how both technology and personal interaction affect politics because these changes are here to stay.
“Try not to think of where we are as a blip in time but as a tipping in time, as we recognize we’re full on into the 21st century,” she says. “We’re going to embrace it and we’re going to own it. It’s going to look different, but I think we’re going to be OK.”
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