Sadly, Florida is one highly partisan state these days.
How can that be when Florida’s voters are almost split 50-50 in presidential elections?
Well, on a neighborhood and community level, Floridians tend to congregate with others of the same political persuasions; add up all of those neighborhoods and communities and it leads to lots of narrow statewide elections.
The revelation that Florida is a highly partisan state comes from a massive study conducted by the Atlantic magazine; ironically, the Atlantic was searching for the nation’s least partisan counties.
The Atlantic concluded that Jefferson County in upstate New York is the least partisan county in America, largely because people in Jefferson County are less likely to see their political opponents as less patriotic or more selfish.
How rare is that in our country today? According to a 2018 survey, 45 percent of Democrats and 35 percent of Republicans would be unhappy if their child married someone from the opposite political party.
“Democrats now think Republicans are richer, older, crueler and more unreasonable than they are in real life,” according to the Atlantic. “Republicans think Democrats are more godless, gay and radical than they actually are. The more righteous we get, the more mistakes we make.”
The Atlantic’s analysis revealed that the most judgmental partisans tend to be white, urban, older, highly educated, politically engaged and politically segregated.
Jefferson County’s demographics are pretty much the reverse: the county has a sizable number of fairly young people who aren’t particularly segregated — and 1 in 4 couples in Jefferson are politically mixed.
The Atlantic put together a list of traits to determine the partisanship level of counties; the magazine then gave each county an overall score on a scale of 0 (not partisan at all) to 100 (extremely partisan). Santa Rosa and Walton counties scored a 92, Okaloosa County scored a 94.
What does all of this mean for the nation? For one, it explains why “compromise” is viewed as “defeat.” It probably also explains why the big issues that face us are stuck in partisan gridlock.
The Atlantic story didn’t explore how people in the various counties were consuming their news, but it stands to reason that many Americans simply stick to getting their news from sources that confirm their beliefs — in other words, they’re only interested in “news of affirmation.”
So what can we do about it? We should seek out good journalism that is balanced and be open to new ideas. And we should be willing to be acknowledge when myths, urban legends and fake news are, well, myths, urban legends and fake news — even when they come from our side of the political aisle.
The Atlantic suggests cultivating friendships across divides — and seeking humility and curiosity over indignation and righteousness; both are great ideas that are well worth embracing.
In addition to lowering our scores on the Atlantic’s partisan scale, they might lower our blood pressure rates, too.
A version of this editorial originally appeared in the (Jacksonville) Florida Times-Union.