Making America hate again: voters fume about everything
Anger is dominating public discourse on the right and the left, which will drive more people to the polls
Ben Chico, 67, a Republican in California, says his annoyance with Democrats morphed into full-blown outrage when he heard they might try to impeach President Donald Trump after the November 6 elections.
Eden Stramer, 23, a North Dakota Democrat, says the possibility of abortions becoming illegal again leaves her fuming.
And Pattie Blair, 74, a Democratic voter in Phoenix, says anger washes over her every time she sees Trump on television. “It’s the most negative, blackest place to find yourself,” Blair said. “It’s like being in a bucket you can’t get yourself out of – a hand keeps pushing you back in every time you try to surface.”
Across the country, people are seething. After a vitriolic 2016 presidential election, anger continues to dominate public discourse, from raucous protests with huge crowds to incensed social-media debates that tear families and friendships apart. That anger will drive voters to the polls in next month’s elections – and greater rage among Democratic voters could give the party’s candidates a boost, Reuters/Ipsos polling data shows.
The poll, which gathered emotional responses from more than 21,000 people over two months, found Democrats are most angry about the Trump administration’s now-abandoned practice of separating undocumented immigrant families at the US-Mexican border, the potential for Russian interference in future US elections, and the Republican president himself.
Republicans are most angry about the potential for Congress to try to remove Trump through impeachment, undocumented immigrants coming into the country, and the mainstream news media.
While the midterm elections are for thousands of posts from state officials to governors, the focus is on control of the US Congress. Opinion polls show Democrats have a chance at achieving the net gain of 23 seats they need to win a majority in the House of Representatives. They have a longer shot at the Senate, where they need a gain of two seats, but are defending 26 seats, including 10 in states Trump won in 2016.
Angry Americans will be more likely to vote, and Democrats are generally more angry about their hot-button issues than Republicans, according to the Reuters/Ipsos data. That is a change from two years ago, when Republicans and Democrats were equally furious, said Nicholas Valentino, a voter behaviour expert at the University of Michigan, who collaborated on the poll and analysed the results for Reuters.
The data suggests Democratic candidates could get a turnout boost that exceeds expectations, he said, possibly tipping the scale for them in tight races.
“That’s what happened in 2016,” Valentino said. “A lot of people who were predicted to stay home were very angry at (presidential candidate) Hillary Clinton and the Democrats, and they showed up to the surprise of everyone.”
In Arizona and other states with competitive races, voters interviewed by Reuters bemoaned rampant partisan anger. Many said it makes them more eager to vote. Tim Leatherby, 57, a former Marine, said he was concerned the country was plunging toward a “civil war”. “I did my time in the fight and I don’t want to fight again here,” he said.
Brian Carson, 46, a public speaking coach, echoed that sentiment. “We’re learning more efficient ways to hate each other more quickly, and that is disappointing to me,” he said.
Valentino said this is true – Americans overall appear to have been angrier in 2016 and 2018 than they were in past election cycles, according to similar polling that dates back to 1980. “Other previous elections have been pretty intense,” he said. “But the emotions that people expressed were much more positive, even during years when the country was in recession.”
The poll asked respondents to rate their emotional responses, including their level of anger, bitterness, worry, fear, hope, relief and satisfaction, toward Trump, the US Senate’s confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the news media, immigration and other issues. It also collected respondents’ voting history and political interest.
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being extreme anger, college-educated Democrats registered an average 8.4 over the issue of family separations at the border, a policy the Trump administration discontinued in June after images of youngsters in cages sparked outrage at home and abroad. Democrats in general were a 7.6 toward Trump, with Democratic women more angry than men.
“Every time a woman comes up in conversation, he has to talk about their appearance,” said Lisa Mol, 58, a Democrat from Michigan. “I want to poke his eyes out so he can’t see.”
Republicans 55 and older were an average of 7.9 in anger over illegal immigration, and Republican men were 7.6 over the possibility of Trump getting impeached. Although theoretically Democrats could start impeachment proceedings if they controlled the House, the party’s leaders have been clear this is not on the immediate agenda.
Democratic women expressed a collective 7.3 in anger when asked about the possibility that abortion could become illegal in the US, while Republican women polled at 4.1 on that question. Democrats’ concern was fired up by Kavanaugh’s arrival in the Supreme Court, where he could provide a decisive fifth vote on the nine-justice court if it were being asked to pare back abortion rights or even overturn the 1973 ruling legalising abortion.
The survey period included the Senate committee hearing where Kavanaugh denied allegations by university professor Christine Blasey Ford that he had sexually assaulted her when they were in high school, and his confirmation by the Senate. Democrats were much more angry about the Senate’s handling of his confirmation than Republicans or independents, the poll found.
Valentino said the data showed the controversy over Kavanaugh would energise Democratic voters more than Republicans in the midterm elections, despite assertions by Republican leaders that their base is more fired up about it. Anger is motivating voting interest more than hope or fear, according to the Reuters/Ipsos poll, which collected 21,027 responses.