New Yorkers tell Siena Poll: “We’re more partisan than ever”

Legislative Gazette file photo
Donald Trump speaks out against the New York SAFE Act at a rally on the Empire State Plaza. A new poll shows that New Yorkers believe partisanship has reached an all-time high in recent years, and the news media and social networks are a big part of the problem.

Wide-ranging poll asks New Yorkers to describe their attitudes about partisanship in the news media, on social networks and in their own circles of friends and family

Sixty-five percent of New Yorkers say that people in the U.S. are more partisan or politically divided than ever before, according to a new Siena College Poll released today.

About one-third of New Yorkers describe themselves as “somewhat” or “very” left of center on economic and fiscal issues, health care policy, environmental issues, and social issues such as discrimination and inequality compared to about one-fourth of New Yorkers who identify as “somewhat” or “very” right of center.

Asked to think of politics as a team sport, 33 percent of New Yorkers choose the “Left of Center” team, 29 percent the “Right of Center” team and 34 percent are not able or willing to join either team.

One-third of New Yorkers say that there has been a time over the last year when their opinion of a person in their social network changed when they discovered that person had opposite views on a political issue.

And while 60 percent say that opposing political views have no impact on their feelings towards others in their network, 26 percent admit they think less of people in their social network when they find out they do not share their political views.

“Despite two-thirds of all New Yorkers, including nearly three-quarters of Democrats, seeing more partisanship and a more politically divided landscape, about one in four New Yorkers say that they are centrists on four contentious political issues – social, economic, health care and the environment,” said Siena College Research Institute Director Don Levy. “Nearly equal percentages call themselves members of the right and left of center teams, and one third refuse to put either label on themselves.

“Sixty-three percent of Republicans describe themselves as members of the Right of Center team while just 51 percent of Democrats suit up as Left of Center,” Levy continued. “On the four issues, 52 to 57 percent of Democrats are left of center while, among Republicans, only on economic issues do a majority say they are right of center.”

Sixty-two percent of New Yorkers spend either a “great deal” (24 percent) or “some” (38 percent) time learning about, talking about or thinking about political news and debates.

Thirty-six percent have, over the last 12 months, devoted more time to following politics than the previous year compared to only 23 percent who spent less time following politics than the year before. One-in-six New Yorkers has been told by a trusted friend to cut back on the time they spend following politics while 1-in-4 have been told to spend more time following politics.

“By 44-to-21 percent, New Yorkers think that the 24 hour a day 7 day a week news coverage contributes more to unhealthy, rather than healthy levels, of civic involvement and debate,” Levy said.

The poll also surveyed New Yorkers’ attitudes about news sources, such as Fox, CNN, MSNBC and social media.

When asked if specific news outlets contribute more to unhealthy levels of political partisanship or more to healthy levels of civic involvement and debate, New Yorkers see Fox News more unfavorably than either CNN or MSNBC.

“Social media, including Facebook and Twitter, are both seen as contributing by more than twice as many New Yorkers to unhealthy levels of political partisanship than those that think the social media platforms contribute to healthy levels of civic involvement and debate,” Levy said. “And 60 percent of all New Yorkers, 79 percent of Democrats and 30 percent of Republicans think that the manner in which President Trump acts contributes to unhealthy levels of political partisanship.”

Asked to consider their political views and those of other members of their household, their extended family, the people they socialize with in person and online, people with whom they work and their casual acquaintances, New Yorkers are in regular contact with many people that have a mixture of shared and opposite views.

Within their household 47 percent share the same political views, 5 percent have opposite views, while 28 percent have a mixture of shared and opposite views.

Among their friends, 32 percent cite shared political views, 5 percent opposite views and 47 percent a mixture.

And among people in their workplace, 16 percent have shared views, 9 percent opposite views, 40 percent a mixture and 10 percent don’t know the views of their workmates.

“While many New Yorkers spend time in social groups and at work with others that do and do not share their views, a large majority say we are more politically divided than ever and many see some media outlets, social media and the president as contributing to unhealthy partisanship,” levy said. “And 26 percent now think less of someone they know because of differing political views.”

This Siena College Poll was conducted September 3 and September 24, 2019 by random telephone calls to 405 New York adults via landline and cell phones and 403 responses drawn from a proprietary online panel of New Yorkers. The overall results have a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points.