US voters are increasingly polarised over politics, but Brits are far less stubborn


The frontrunner to be the next US president is spending his weeks in court, charged with a criminal offence related to an alleged sexual encounter with a porn star. This would normally be suboptimal from a campaign perspective, but to date is having no effect on support for Donald Trump.

Moreover, whether you think the US economy is going gangbusters or collapsing depends not on whether wages and employment are rising but on whether you side with Democrats or Republicans, with the latter currently reporting that economic conditions are worse than in the depths of Covid.

This is what political polarisation looks like, a disease we’re regularly told has spread across advanced economies, posing the biggest 21st-century threat to our democracies. Which is odd, because it’s not. Recent research spells out that the US is an outlier on polarisation, defined as the extent to which you feel more negatively towards political parties other than the one you support.

Examining 12 OECD countries over the past four decades, it confirms the US’s polarisation surge. But there was no uniform pattern. Five countries (including France and Switzerland) had more modest increases, while six saw polarisation fall back, including Germany and the UK.

Brexit was polarising but those claiming Britain’s party politics is unusually divided today have forgotten a lot about the 1980s, including the miners’ strike. Seeing the British electorate as two immovable blocks of support for Labour and Conservative is strange when voters handed the Tories their biggest victory since Thatcher in 2019, but are now on track to give Labour a thumping win. Just because we’re having our election at the same time as the US doesn’t mean our politics has much in common. The defining feature of British voters? Not that they’re polarised, but that they’re pissed off and volatile.

Torsten Bell is chief executive of the Resolution Foundation and author of Great Britain? How We Get Our Future Back

The Guardian has spent the past 13 years tirelessly investigating the shortcomings of the Tories in office – austerity, Brexit, partygate, cronyism, the Truss debacle and the individual failings of ministers who behave as if the rules don’t apply to them.

Our work has resulted in resignations, apologies and policy corrections. Our continued revelations about the conveyor belt of Tory dysfunction are the latest in a long line of important scoops. And with an election just round the corner, we won’t stop now. It’s crucial that we can all make informed decisions about who is best to lead the UK. Will you invest in the Guardian this year?

Unlike many others, the Guardian has no shareholders and no billionaire owner. Just the determination and passion to deliver high-impact global reporting, always free from commercial or political influence. Reporting like this is vital for democracy, for fairness and to demand better from the powerful.

And we provide all this for free, for everyone to read. We do this because we believe in information equality. Greater numbers of people can keep track of the events shaping our world, understand their impact on people and communities, and become inspired to take meaningful action. Millions can benefit from open access to quality, truthful news, regardless of their ability to pay for it.

Whether you give a little or a lot, your funding will power our reporting for the years to come. If you can, please support us on a monthly basis. It takes less than a minute to set up, and you can rest assured that you’re making a big impact every single month in support of open, independent journalism. Thank you.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top