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Nasty works

If you think politics has become nastier, you aren’t alone.

An increasing number of American voters believe politics have become less civil since President Obama took office, according to information published in the July issue of PS: Political Science & Politics. Michael Wolf, IPFW associate professor of political science, was the co-editor of the series.

In examining three surveys, it found that voters who believed politics were growing less civil since the president took office grew from 48 percent in April 2010 to 58 percent in September and was at 63 percent before the 2010 election. Of course, who is to blame for such incivility depends on a person’s perspective. Republicans blamed liberal commentators and Democrats, Democrats blamed conservative personalities and Republicans while Independents blamed the two major parties.

According to a release touting the study, most Republicans want politicians to stand firm on principle while most Democrats preferred their politicians to compromise to get things done.

The series pushes the idea that the contemporary nastiness is worse than the normal political discourse of past campaigns, and such incivility is troubling. The results determined the current incivility “contributes to conditions that make future consensus even less possible and enables long-standing partisan divisions.”

With all the concern for heightening political discourse, it would be easy to wonder why it doesn’t change. The study answers that as well: Republicans who want politicians to stand firm and strong Democrats both tended to be mobilized by perceptions of negative campaigning. This happened even when those supporters believed negative campaigns were bad for democracy.

The full report can be found at apsanet.org.