Society problems

People in the United States see stronger conflicts in society than in other countries

Two men argue as protesters demonstrate against a so-called White Lives Matter rally on April 11, 2021, in Huntington Beach, California. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The United States stands out among 17 advanced economies as one of the most conflicting when it comes to questions of social unity. A large majority of Americans say that there are strong political and racial and ethnic conflicts in the United States and that most people disagree on the basic facts. And while Americans are not alone in this regard – France and South Korea also stand out as high-conflict societies – the results of a new Pew Research Center report reveal exactly how far the United States is. more divided than the other societies studied.

A graph showing that Americans tend to see stronger societal conflicts than people from other advanced economies

Nine in ten American adults say there is conflict between people who support different political parties, while an overall median of 50% says the same in all of the advanced economies studied. Likewise, about seven in ten Americans say there is conflict between people of different ethnic or racial backgrounds in the United States, more than any other audience surveyed. By comparison, only about a quarter in Singapore and Taiwan and a third in Spain say the same. When it comes to religious and urban-rural conflict, the United States has the third highest share indicating that there is conflict in each case. The only places where a larger share holds these opinions are France and South Korea.

This analysis by the Pew Research Center focuses on comparing attitudes in the United States about societal unity with those of other advanced economies. For non-U.S. Data, this article is based on nationally representative surveys of 16,254 adults from March 12 to May 26, 2021, in 16 advanced economies. All surveys were conducted by telephone among adults in Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan.

In the United States, we surveyed 2,596 adults from February 1 to 7, 2021. All of those who participated in the US survey are members of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited by national random sampling. residential addresses. This way almost all adults have a chance to be selected. The survey is weighted to be representative of the adult United States population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education, and other categories.

This study was conducted in locations where nationally representative telephone surveys are feasible. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, face-to-face interviews are currently not possible in many parts of the world.

Here are the questions used for this analysis, as well as the answers. Visit our methodological database for more information on survey methods outside the United States. For respondents in the United States, learn more about the ATP methodology.

Almost three-quarters of Americans (74%) say racial and ethnic discrimination is a serious problem in the United States, compared to a median of 17% of the public who say racial and ethnic discrimination is a serious problem in their society. However, there is great variation on this point, with only 17% in Taiwan stating that racial and ethnic discrimination is a serious problem and 82% in France and Italy saying the same.

And the United States is in the top when it comes to whether people agree on basic facts: a majority of Americans (59%) say people can’t get along on basic facts, just behind France (61%).

A graph showing Democrats more likely to see most societal conflict, although both sides see partisan conflict

In the United States, there are major political divisions over most measures of societal conflict. Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents are significantly more likely than Republicans and Republican-leaning independents to say that there is conflict over each of the items studied, with one exception: an equal share (90%) of supporters on both sides claim that there are very strong conflicts between people who support different political parties. Earlier findings in the United States have shown that an equally large proportion of Americans said the conflict between Democrats and Republicans was strong or very strong. Democrats are also much more likely than Republicans to say racial and ethnic discrimination is a serious problem in the United States, in line with long-standing findings that show broad partisan divisions over racial and ethnic inequalities.

A bar graph showing that black adults are more likely than white or Hispanic adults to say there is ethnic and racial conflict in the United States

There are also significant differences on issues of societal conflict regarding racial and ethnic identity in the United States. Non-Hispanic white adults are significantly more likely than non-Hispanic or Hispanic black adults to say that there is conflict between people who support different political parties. , although large majorities from all three groups agree. When it comes to conflict between people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, 82% of black Americans say there is very strong or strong conflict, compared to about seven in ten White and Hispanic Americans. Black and Hispanic adults are significantly more likely than white adults to say that there is conflict between people who practice different religions.

A bar graph showing Liberal Democrats most likely to say Americans disagree on basic facts

In the United States, supporters are about as likely to say that Americans disagree on the basic facts. Six in ten Democrats share this view, as do about six in ten Republicans. But liberal Democrats (68%) are significantly more likely than moderate and conservative Democrats (52%) to say that most Americans disagree on basic facts. Among conservative Republicans, 62% say most people disagree on the basic facts, while 54% of moderate and liberal Republicans say so.

About six in ten non-Hispanic and Hispanic white adults say that when it comes to important issues facing the United States, most people disagree on the basic facts. Non-Hispanic black adults are significantly less likely to hold this view than white or Hispanic adults, with 49% saying most people disagree on the basic facts. Those with a college degree or more are also much more likely to say that people disagree on basic facts than those with a college degree or less (63% and 56%, respectively).

Note: The following are the questions used for this analysis, along with the answers. Visit our methodological database for more information on survey methods outside the United States. For respondents in the United States, learn more about the ATP methodology.

Aidan Connaughton is a research assistant specializing in global attitudes research at the Pew Research Center.