Democrats and Republicans share core values but still distrust each other

Jun 14, 2023, 3:00 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans on the right and the left have a lot more in common than they might think — including their strong distrust of each other.

A survey published on Wednesday finds that when asked about core values including fairness, compassion and personal responsibility, about nine in 10 Democrats and Republicans agreed they were very or extremely important. Yet only about a third of either group said they believed the same was true for the opposing party.

The results of the survey, conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago and the nonprofit group Starts With Us, reveal a stark truth at the source of the polarization that has a powerful grip on American politics: While most Americans agree on the core principles underlying American democracy, they no longer recognize that the other side also holds those values.

“This is a hidden opportunity for Americans to reestablish a sense of shared values,” said Tom Fishman, chief executive at Starts With Us, a nonpartisan organization that works to bridge political polarization. Americans from both parties need to understand that they still share common values, he said, and to recognize their misconceptions about the opposing party.

Americans have a long tradition of quarrelsome politics, dating back to before the Boston Tea Party. But with the notable exception of the Civil War, a sense of unity has kept those forces of division at bay. Experts who study partisanship and trust say that while a certain amount of polarization is natural, it can become a significant problem when it’s exploited by political parties or when one party no longer views the other as legitimate opposition but as an enemy.

A number of factors are cited as possible causes for an increase in division, including the decline and fragmentation of spread misinformation while too often sorting users into echo chambers where they seldom encounter an opposing view.

This loss of unity is tied to growing distrust in the Republican’s 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden.

“When you get worried is when polarization turns into dehumanization — a sense that the other is somehow less than human, or evil, or unable to share your decent human values,” said Nealin Parker, executive director of Common Ground USA, a group that works to resolve conflict by building trust among Americans. “That should be concerning to anybody, because those are the necessary psychological steps to doing harm to each other.”

In the survey, respondents were asked to rate the importance of six principles: personal responsibility, fair enforcement of the law, representative government, government accountability, compassion and respect across differences, and learning from the past. In each case, about 90% of both Democrats and Republicans rated these values as very or extremely important.

When asked if members of the opposing party shared those values, however, about two-thirds of respondents said no.

For example, while 91% of Republicans said they think citizens should learn from the past to improve the country, only 29% of Democrats said they believed that to be true of GOP voters. And while only 31% of Republicans say Democrats value government accountability, 90% of Democratic respondents said they consider it very or extremely important.

The findings reflect a phenomenon known as “affective polarization,” in which disagreements are based on animosity and a lack of trust instead of an actual debate over values or policy. Julia Minson, a professor who studies conflict and collaboration at Harvard University’s Harvard Kennedy School, said recognizing common values is a good start to bridging America’s divides.

Too often, Minson said, “We ascribe negative things to people we disagree with. We see them as an adversary that doesn’t want to be a partner. It’s very much about emotions and trust and largely divorced from actual differences.”


The nationwide survey of 1,003 adults was conducted May 11-15 using NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.

United States News

Associated Press

Kidnapped teen rescued from Southern California motel room after 4 days of being held hostage

SANTA MARIA, Calif. (AP) — Authorities rescued a 17-year-old boy in Southern California after he was kidnapped and held hostage for four days by captors who threatened to harm him if his family did not pay a $500,000 ransom. The teen was rescued Friday after law enforcement tracked him and his three kidnappers to a […]

4 hours ago

This Aug. 17, 2021 photo shows Quagga mussels cover the engine of a Bell P-39 Airacobra military pl...

Associated Press

Historians race to find Great Lakes shipwrecks before quagga mussels destroy the sites

An invasive mussel is destroying shipwrecks deep in the depths of the lakes, forcing archeologists and amateur historians into a race against time to find as many sites as they can before the region touching eight U.S. states and the Canadian province of Ontario loses any physical trace of its centuries-long maritime history.

4 hours ago

A sign marks a roadside rest stop that has been made to look like the historic security gate that a...

Associated Press

Birthplace of the atomic bomb braces for its biggest mission since the top-secret Manhattan Project

Los Alamos was the perfect spot for the U.S. government’s top-secret Manhattan Project.

8 hours ago

Associated Press

Suspect arrested after shooting at the Oklahoma State Fair injures 1, police say

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — One person was injured when shots were fired during an argument between two groups of people at the Oklahoma State Fair on Saturday, sending a crowd of people running for safety, police said. One person was arrested on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon after the evening shooting, Oklahoma […]

10 hours ago

Associated Press

Former NHL player Nicolas Kerdiles dies after a motorcycle crash in Nashville. He was 29

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Former NHL player Nicolas Kerdiles died Saturday after a motorcycle crash in Nashville, according to police. He was 29. The one-time hockey player for the Anaheim Ducks drove his motorcycle through a stop sign early Saturday and hit the driver’s side of an SUV, according to the Metro Nashville Police Department. […]

11 hours ago

Associated Press

Hazing lawsuit filed against University of Alabama fraternity

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — A student and his parents have filed a lawsuit against a University of Alabama fraternity, saying he suffered a traumatic brain injury while being hazed as a fraternity pledge earlier this year. The lawsuit filed last week accuses Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and others associated with it of fraud, negligence and […]

11 hours ago

Sponsored Articles



Importance of AC maintenance after Arizona’s excruciating heat wave

An air conditioning unit in Phoenix is vital to living a comfortable life inside, away from triple-digit heat.

Home moving relocation in Arizona 2023...

BMS Moving

Tips for making your move in Arizona easier

If you're moving to a new home in Arizona, use this to-do list to alleviate some stress and ensure a smoother transition to your new home.

Sanderson Ford...

Sanderson Ford

Sanderson Ford congratulates D-backs’ on drive to great first half of 2023

The Arizona Diamondbacks just completed a red-hot first half of the major league season, and Sanderson Ford wants to send its congratulations to the ballclub.

Democrats and Republicans share core values but still distrust each other