A stark political divide

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The United States is divided. This division, which lay in plain sight before and during the presidential election, is alarming to Rochester Beacon readers who participated in a survey today.

Among those who had responded to the survey by 11 a.m., 98 percent said they were either very concerned or somewhat concerned about the polarization gripping a nation that awaits the outcome of the presidential election. Eighty-two percent answered “very concerned.”

“We are so very divided, with both main viewpoints entrenched in their positions,” wrote Aron Reina. “It’s sad to see such a great country frozen, rather than working on pathways forward.”

Results of the Rochester Beacon survey

Defying many polls and predictions, the 2020 presidential election is a cliffhanger. As of this morning, Democratic candidate Joe Biden had 253 electoral votes compared with incumbent president Donald Trump’s 213. While the Associated Press and Fox News called Arizona in Biden’s favor, other media outlets are cautious. Eyes remain on the vote tally in that state, and on Georgia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Results in Alaska have yet to be announced, but Trump appears to be leading there.

“I was not expecting it to be a cliff hanger! Everything else is playing out about as expected in terms of vote counting,” survey respondent Bev Faro wrote. “I was also surprised/disappointed at the degree to which the Republicans held on to seats in the Senate. Once again it demonstrates that polls are fallible.”

Split electorate

The vote counts and exit polls reveal a highly polarized electorate, with voters divided by factors such as political affiliation, geography and race. Before Nov. 4, pundits believed Biden had the ability to swing past Trump voters his way. 

In Monroe County, with numerous absentee ballots still to be counted, the tally in the presidential race was strikingly similar to the 2016 election, when Trump defeated Hillary Clinton. In that contest, Clinton received roughly 54 percent of the vote in the county, Trump got 40 percent and more than 5 percent went to third-party candidates. On Tuesday, unofficial returns showed Biden with 53 percent of the vote and Trump with nearly 45 percent; third-party candidates garnered only 2 percent.

Ken Price, a registered Republican, did vote for Biden.

“I’m one that does not think I could survive another four years of Trump’s divisive style of politics,” he wrote.

Still, Price is in the minority. A few weeks before the election, a Pew Research report found large shares of voters planned to vote along party lines for president, Senate and the House of Representatives. Only 4 percent of registered voters in states with a Senate contest said they would support Trump or Biden and a Senate candidate from the opposing party, the report states. The trend hadn’t changed much from four years ago.

Pew’s analysis of split-ticket voting was based on a national survey conducted Sept. 30 to Oct. 5 among nearly 12,000 U.S. adults, including 10,543 registered voters. The survey showed Biden had support of 52 percent of registered voters. Trump had 42 percent.

Among Rochester Beacon readers taking part in today’s survey, 73 percent voted on party lines in the presidential and House of Representatives elections, while 28 did not. One percent did not cast a vote in the 2020 election.

“I’m glad that the likely outcome of divided government will restrain the worst excesses of both parties, but I’m afraid that we have forgotten how to work together across the aisle, and we’ve allowed politics to seep into too much of life that should be non-political,” wrote Kelvin Smith.

Results of the Rochester Beacon survey

The polarized rhetoric and worries over voter intimidation have cast doubt on fairness of the vote-counting process. Roughly 38 percent of respondents to the Beacon poll were very confident that the outcome of the election would be decided fairly, and 51 percent were somewhat confident. Eleven percent were not very confident or not at all confident.

“I am disheartened, at times horrified, at the efforts to prevent voting or disqualify votes, at court stacking to shape potential decisions, at gerrymandering that has deeply affected our system overall, at strategic closing of voting locations, and more,” wrote Jane Ellen Bleeg. “Our country is moving in directions similar to Germany during Hitler’s rise, fueled by white supremacy, fear and greed, and I am supremely concerned.”

Results of the Rochester Beacon survey

The following are the complete signed written responses of survey participants. (Many additional unsigned responses were submitted.)

In general, what is your reaction to this year’s presidential vote?

I am grateful that so many people paid attention to the election process and voted. I am concerned that we do not seem to be looking at the same country. We don’t have a shared vision for the future. We have work to do.

—Kate Bennett

While I had hoped for a landslide for Biden, I’m not surprised that it is a close race. I’m a bit baffled that Americans are so surprised that we didn’t have an answer on election night. With so many people voting by mail and every state having their own counting process, I anticipated that there would be a delay in declaring winners. In my opinion, every vote matters.

—Alli O’Malley

Never have felt such stress and anxiety. The threats of violence and intimidation are infuriating. I pray our Constitution holds.

—Melanie Diggs

We’re too divided as a country and we’re seeing more tribalism (my side vs your) devolve into violence. We need a national effort on depolarizing so that people that disagree can still get along and we can still solve problems. Partisanship, polarization, divisive and group identity politics are passé the next big movement will be depolarization and coming together based on common values and commitment to community. Organizations like Braver Angles are on the forefront supporting this effort. I think people are sick of the anger and hatred that comes from some who disagree.

—Christian Kulak

I am flabbergasted that it isn’t a veritable blue tsunami. Then again, white supremacy tends to trump all else when it comes to decision-making on leadership, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

—Christine Corrado

Not surprising at all.

—Michael C. Hupf

I voted for Biden and my reaction will be relief as much as anything if he wins. How it is that after four years half this country is still voting for Trump is beyond me. The process has struggled, somewhat unnecessarily, and Trump’s efforts to manipulate the process are unthinkable embarrassment.

—Michael A. Stone

Disgust. Disappointment. Concern. Anger. Hope.

—Melanie Watson

Recall that George Soros gave about $800,000 locally to defeat Sandra Doorley. Not enough, apparently. An excess contribution way off-scale for a District Attorney race. How much did the Democratic Party spend to produce the Great Blue Wave ? Barely a ripple resulted. OUT OF TOUCH. President Trump is the perfect test/demonstration, the very last person that could be selected on merit is preferred, by more or less half of the Electorate. No need to decode THAT message! As to fairness of the election: The nominations are rigged by Powerful Interests, so the election is not really an election.

—Ron Johnson

Very disturbing voter suppression tactics observed in a number of states.

—Steve Gaudioso

It amazes me that anyone could consider voting for Donald Trump. 

—Lisa Shaw

Disappointing. We are so very divided, with both main viewpoints entrenched in their positions. It’s sad to see such a great country frozen, rather than working on pathways forward.

—Aron Reina

This year’s election both at the top and down the ballot showed that half the country sees social issues as a zero-sum scenario where someone else losing is their gain, and that fear of losing (pick your noun) is a strong motivator.

—Jim Davis

The most important result will be the presidential election. As of yet that is undecided. If Biden is elected we will have a chance to get the country back on track.

—Rob Brown

The election continues to amplify the stark divisions in our nation at all levels. We also can see the impact of voters’ choices. Hate and anger will not progress us towards a better future. Dialogue, openness, and calm is key to hearing, listening, and responding to each other with respect and making moral progress towards identifying and realizing our shared humanity.

—Tobie Olsan

POTUS – Biden, Senate – red, SCOTUS 6-3 conservative. I’ll take it.

—Max McGinnis

Disappointed in the antiquated processes of voting; optimistic with the evolution of multiday voting opportunities to bring more citizens into the process overall. 

—M. Ulakovic

As a registered Republican who voted for Joe Biden, I’m cautiously optimistic that Biden will win the election. I’m one that does not think I could survive another four years of Trump’s divisive style of politics. 

—Ken Price

The voting process was excellent in New York State. Our election officials made it possible for every eligible voter to vote safely, no matter their circumstances, even in the middle of a pandemic. A herculean effort, executed well. I have a great deal of confidence in the integrity of our voting system. 

—Karin Cross-Smith

It’s worrisome to me. Despite the mismanagement of the Covid crisis, blatant racist policies such as forbidding diversity training, human rights violations especially among immigrants, and widening income inequality among Americans of lower and middle-class status of all races, the fact that this race is as close as it is disconcerting. I am eager to more fully understand the dynamics creating this gap of perception and reality between U.S. citizens. 

—Kit Miller

I’m pleased but not as much as I would have been had there been the landslide a number predicted. 

—Ned Corman

I’m cautiously optimistic that we will restore character and decency to the White House.

—Tom Doupe

Two flawed undesirable candidates.

—Sheila Gissin Weinbach

I was relieved that there were no disruptions of the voting process, none of the voter intimidation I feared. However, efforts by Republicans to suppress the vote of minorities and others in predominantly Democratic cities continues to be a criminal miscarriage of the political process. 

—Rob K. Levy

I am very disappointed at the poor quality of both candidates, and the amount of hateful rhetoric coming from supporters on both sides. I’m glad that the likely outcome of divided government will restrain the worst excesses of both parties, but I’m afraid that we have forgotten how to work together across the aisle, and we’ve allowed politics to seep into too much of life that should be non-political. 

—Kelvin Smith

I’m dismayed at the polarization in this country but hopeful, too, knowing that our country has gone through similar episodes and has survived. I am also happy that many people are more knowledgeable about our government (I certainly am) and hope that we can work to change processes that no longer make sense (e.g., Electoral College workings, politics removed from the Supreme Court selections and agreement on how to interpret our laws—liberal vs. conservative). 

—Christine Funt

I was not expecting it to be a cliff hanger! Everything else is playing out about as expected in terms of vote counting. I was also surprised/disappointed at the degree to which the Republicans held on to seats in the Senate. Once again it demonstrates that polls are fallible.

—Bev Faro

I’m a bit surprised at how many people supported Trump despite his flaws, apparently either because they like his avowed policies or because his pseudo-tough guy persona fits some people’s image of a leader.

—Peter Collinge

The rule of law has gone completely out the window. The focus on whatever gives me the win is disgusting. The fact that millions of Americans are blindly following that ideology, while openly challenging others for not follow the law, is so hypocritical that it has pure comedy. Will no one stand up😩😩

—Merci Taylor

I am disheartened, at times horrified, at the efforts to prevent voting or disqualify votes, at court stacking to shape potential decisions, at gerrymandering that has deeply affected our system overall, at strategic closing of voting locations, and more. Our country is moving in directions similar to Germany during Hitler’s rise, fueled by white supremacy, fear and greed, and I am supremely concerned. 

—Jane Ellen Bleeg

The president’s response to the outcome were expected but no less disgusting. 

—Warren Hern

I think it is wonderful that so many American citizens were motivated to exercise their constitutional right to vote. I’m disappointed in the continued disrespect shown by candidates, their representatives, & the media in the disrespect they show. It really is a disrespect against our country. Free speech & unbiased opinion is a right to be respect. 

—Anthony Schmitt

So terribly sad that so many thousands of people voted for such a horrible, dishonest, unqualified, hateful person. 

—Nancy Mahlstedt

This year again proves to me that national elections are broken and it’s time for the two party system and the Electoral College to end. I’m fearful of the polarization on both sides. 

—Jake Duell

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor. Paul Ericson is executive editor. This story will be updated as additional readers respond to the survey.

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