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Poll finds growing partisanship among New Yorkers

Jason Smith
WRVO News (file photo)

As political tensions heighten over the inquiry into impeaching President Donald Trump, a new poll finds that New Yorkers believe people in the state are more partisan than ever.

A survey by Siena College finds that 65% of New Yorkers said there’s a wider political divide than they’ve seen in their lifetimes, and it’s affecting the way they relate to others.

The director of the Siena Research Institute, Don Levy, said about a quarter of those surveyed said there has been a time over the last year when their opinion of a person in their social network changed after they found out that person had the opposite view on a political issue.

“Twenty-six percent of New Yorkers said, ‘You know what, that’s true, I think less of someone today than I used to because I found out they have opposite political views,’ ” Levy said.

But in a seeming contradiction, when asked where they place themselves on the political spectrum, most say they are either left or right of center. Sixty-three percent of Republicans say they are right of center, while 51% of Democrats say they are left of center. It’s the other side, they seem to say, that’s holding extreme views, Levy said.

“They say everybody else is more partisan than ever,” he said.

Most asked said they think it’s unhealthy for civic engagement to spend too much time watching the news channels or engaging in political discussions on social media, yet one-third say they’ve spent more time in the last year following politics.

“It’s like we can’t pull away,” Levy said. “It’s like the car wreck theory.”

Just under one-quarter, 23 percent, said they spent less time following political news.

When asked who is most to blame for the intensifying political rhetoric, most Democrats and independents blame Trump and Fox News, while Republicans said progressive Democrats and CNN are more at fault.

Levy predicted that the partisan split is only going to get worse as the impeachment inquiry and rhetoric escalate, and even those who say they prefer the center will have to take a side.

“Ultimately, everybody is going to have to make a decision,” Levy said.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.