The divide remains

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The stark political divisions on display again in this year’s elections continue to cause great concern among Rochester Beacon readers.

Nearly all of those who took part in the Beacon’s post-election poll Wednesday—97 percent—said they were either “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about polarization in U.S. politics. Eighty percent responded “very concerned.” Two years ago, in a similar Beacon poll conducted as Americans awaited the final outcome of the presidential race between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, 98 percent were either very concerned or somewhat concerned about U.S. political polarization, and 82 percent were very concerned.

When asked what is the most important problem facing the country today, the No. 1 response was “political polarization.” It was followed by “climate change/environment” (19 percent), and “economy/jobs” and “state of democracy/election integrity” (tied at 12 percent).

Responding to this year’s reader poll, Rome Celli wrote: “I am concerned about continuing partisan polarization and how polarization hurts the country at a profound level as well as how it distracts from getting the work of the county done.” Another wrote that the “country is polarized and I fear for democracy.”

The poll was conducted from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, when a number of key Senate and House of Representatives races around the country were too close to call. Some political observers said it could be weeks before control of Congress, which entered the election nearly evenly split, is decided.

Predictions of a “red wave,” with Republicans sweeping scores of Democratic incumbents from office, proved off the mark. Instead, the narrow but deep divide that has shaped U.S. politics over the last half-dozen years remains.

In New York, Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul—whose position seemed increasingly precarious in the days leading up to the election—beat back the challenge from Republican Lee Zeldin. Her margin of victory, however, was the smallest in a New York gubernatorial race in decades.

Locally, incumbent Democratic Rep. Joe Morelle survived Republican La’Ron Singletary’s attempt to oust him in the 25th Congressional District contest, but it was the narrowest margin of victory for Morelle in his three congressional races. Other local Democrats also faced tough fights for re-election.

Party-line voting is one measure of the polarized electorate. Among the 200 respondents to the Beacon poll, 75 percent said they voted for candidates from the same party in the races for Congress, governor, state Senate and state Assembly. That is virtually unchanged from the Beacon poll in 2020, when 74 percent of respondents said they voted for same-party candidates in the presidential and congressional races.

In Monroe County, party-line voting favors the Democrats, who have a sizable enrollment advantage—42 percent of all registered voters, versus 26 percent each for the Republicans and unaffiliated voters. In Wednesday’s Beacon poll, 60 percent of respondents identified as Democrats, more than the Republicans (14 percent), unaffiliated (22 percent) and other parties (5 percent) combined.

Some readers greeted the election results with a sense of relief.

“Thankfully, (the elections were) not as damaging as I feared,” wrote Steve Gaudioso. “It appears that many in the electorate did not respond to fear-mongering touted by some candidates. However, our democracy continues under threat in a number of locations across America.”

And Keith Weber wrote: “I am relieved that the results of yesterday’s elections seem to indicate a still-engaged U.S. electorate. At the same time, I am concerned about the efforts of some to delegitimize our system with unfounded (and, increasingly, automatic) claims of ‘irregularities’ and fraud.’”

Others expressed disappointment—or even disgust—with both sides of the political divide.

Aaron Metras’ general reaction was “disappointment, not in the outcome necessarily but in the candidates themselves. I have never felt less motivated to vote. I don’t feel like anyone had a positive message at all.”

“A shameful display of ignoring real issues and thoughtful discussion of strategies to improve voters’ concerns,” Anne Quinn wrote. “I have never felt so sickened by never-ending ads aimed at instilling fear and hate from both parties.”

At the same time, a large majority expressed faith in the integrity of the electoral system. Ninety-two percent said they were “very confident” or “somewhat confident” that the outcome of the “too close to call” races that will determine which party controls Congress will be decided fairly. The result was similar when they were asked about the integrity of vote counts in Monroe County.

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 elections?

Choose your own adventure! National results were not ideal but it’s always a mixed bag. Was pleased by the local results and glad to see some truly abhorrent national candidates go down in flames. Overall, I was heartened by the turnout from Gen-Z and hopeful for the future.
—Graham Young

Thankfully, not as damaging as I feared. It appears that many in the electorate did not respond to fear-mongering touted by some candidates. However, our democracy continues under threat in a number of locations across America.
—Steve Gaudioso

It seems locally, that not much has changed. Examination of voter turnout shows the 5 worst districts for turnout were the “crescent” districts: LD 22,25,27,28,29. Locally we need to work to increase voter participation in this area of the city.
—Paul Kingsley

I am pleased with the outcome. The MAGA Republicans did not steamroll the elections as predicted. Democracy still lives!
—Tom Swartz

Final results are not in in all Senate and House races, but I am pleased with the results in NY State, particularly in Monroe County, where all Democratic candidates prevailed. I am happy that there do not seem to be any credible assertions that there was voter fraud, anywhere. I am also pleased that some (not nearly as many as I would like to see) election deniers were defeated in their races (altho there were a number who were elected.) I am especially pleased at the high turnout, all over the country.
—Emily Neece

Disappointed and sad that there will be no change to policies governing NYS especially bail reform.
—Leonard Lyons

I was saddened & somewhat frightened by the probable flipping of the US House & possible flipping of the Senate. I was surprised by the narrower-than-I-expected margins of victory in local/state elections. I am sickened by the outright lies & attempts to cast doubt on election outcomes (preemptively & after the fact). I am very troubled by the worsening ineptitude (at least I hope that’s what it is) at the MCBOE. I’m grateful that physical violence seems not to have been a factor.
—Mary Hussong-Kallen

Overall, I think the election results are better than what I thought they would be.
—Michael J. Bleeg

A very long harsh process!
—Roger Brown

I gathered there was a sense of “energy” amongst the electorate (Repub, Dem, Ind.), yet the turnout % versus the total possible voting population remains disappointingly low.
—Jared Kopp

Imagine if they took all the money spent on WINNING elections and put it towards improving life the citizens of the USA. It’s absurd and morally reprehensible.
—Karen Nozik

As usual, the Dems barely even tried to advertise (I saw not one Hochul yard sign) and campaigned on divisive issues like gun control, even though lots of liberals and leftists, and more conservatives, LIKE gun ownership, and even though the answer to gun violence is poverty alleviation, not strict gun laws. It’s surprising they pulled through with some wins. The Republicans, also as usual, just want everyone to kowtow to authority and roll back basic human rights. Their lack of humanity is the only reason the democrats pulled off the wins they did. Post. Script. Given those options, hopefully the Working Families Party got enough votes to stay on the ballot.
—Amy D’Amico

Disappointment, not in the outcome necessarily but in the candidates themselves.  I have never felt less motivated to vote.  I don’t feel like anyone had a positive message at all.
—Aaron Metras

I was longing for a return to basic civility. For all the money spent on advertising, most of it was useless for communicating actual plans or positions. It made me sad that lots of people would not look much further when researching the candidates.
—Mary Lou Wilson

I am relieved that the results of yesterday’s elections seem to indicate a still-engaged U.S. electorate. At the same time, I am concerned about the efforts of some to delegitimize our system with unfounded (and, increasingly, automatic) claims of “irregularities” and fraud. Those who will not honorably accept defeat at the polls destabilize our system for everyone. Our courts (including judges appointed by the complainants) weighed in resoundingly after the last election. Enough already.
—Keith Weber

Democracy prevailed based on the voter turnout and several important outcomes on a national level  … but we still have to very vigilant.
—Bill Wynne

I am glad to see that La’Ron Singletary is calling for an investigation! I have ZERO trust in the reported outcome of this election. There is too much at stake here and we need to come up with a way to ensure election integrity. There is a mountain of evidence that is currently being ignored that proves past election corruption. Until this is honestly addressed by everyone, there will be no trust in this, or future elections.
—Deborah Taye

Procedures are in place and it stinks that GOP members cast doubt and can’t accept defeat.
—Julie Marcellus

This should put the final nail in the coffin of the G.O.P.’s Trump experiment; the party needs to move on if they wish to remain relevant.
—Peter Vars

Another election in the rear-view mirror of our nation’s history. It appears that, much like an alcoholic, one has to plunge to great depths in order to be able to usher in change. We have, apparently, not reached the bottom yet. Some still hold out hope that their Democratic Party of old is not dead but rather stalled in a position of decision. That decision will come, I hope not too late. The party of the open border is still supporting this. Fentanyl, which crosses daily, has only killed about 100,000 of our citizens. At appears we need to up that annual death rate to come to the realization that an open border could be the problem. Our economy? Well, it is not bad enough yet, to select another direction. Our energy policy? We can still get gas and it isn’t breaking the bank, yet. Incumbents… no matter that they accomplish nothing for the people, they have been on the job for the Party. That said, let them have another go. Crime? It’s here to stay, so stop trying to vote it out. Now…if we could only get rid of the 2nd Amendment! That would resolve all of our woes! These people that live by the law need to be taught a lesson…the Party rules, the government rules, control is the word! Let’s move on to the next pandemic and shut ‘er down! The populace will then finally, be under control. Maybe we can even make 10/8 of any year a holiday remembering how it once was and never will be.
—Josh Jochem Porte

Overall? Not surprised. Ds seemed to vote for Ds, Rs for Rs and not as many surprises as one thinks. Because neither party has governed well and we have a politics of “they are worse than us” it is not shocking that Congress flips back and forth with small margins every year. No one is satisfied. Few elected officials govern or paint a positive plan for the future, I expect it to remain this way for a long time.
—Michael Rizzo

Thankful for the opportunity to vote. Glad we don’t have the barriers that some states have enacted.
—Lynn Braband

I am pleased that it appears that in general elections across the country were conducted fairly and without incident. It is hard to say what impact, if any, the various so-called voter integrity laws may have had on voter turnout or results.
—David Schraver

A shameful display of ignoring real issues and thoughtful discussion of strategies to improve voters’ concerns.  I have never felt so sickened by never-ending ads aimed at instilling fear and hate from both parties.
—Anne Quinn

I feel that a lot of negative rhetoric and lies from the Republican party continue to flow in an effort to undermine the democratic process.
—Rosa Lloyd

I was surprised by the number of people early in the day at my polling place. I’m also surprised that so many contests maintained the status quo. However, I’m not surprised at how many races illustrate how divided we are, with both major parties motivating the bulk of their supporters to vote along party lines. Additionally, your list of important issues is difficult to pick just one. I chose Education because all of the other issues depend on an educated and informed electorate. To date, I posit that our education system has failed miserably over the past forty years preparing citizens for active participation in our democracy.
—Frank Orienter  

Favorable. Many decades since the Party of the President did this well in his first mid-term election.
—James Bertolone

This country is finished!
—Daniel Mossien

The election results locally and in NYS are what I expected. I am disappointed about the results on the national level but I am less disappointed than I had expected. I am concerned about continuing partisan polarization and how polarization hurts the country at a profound level as well as how it distracts from getting the work of the county done.
—Rome Celli

Where candidates offered either meaningful agendas, not ideology, or had a record of accomplishment, they did well. MAGA influence was the big loser.
—Ed Saphar

As a nation, our 50-50 divide continues. Neither side is getting the mandate they want. For the most part, red seats stayed red and blue seats stayed blue. The House is likely to tip from a thin Democratic majority to a thin Republican majority. The biggest message — Donald Trump is poison at the polls in competitive races. His slate’s performance was poor, and his 2024 candidacy is probably DOA.
—Dave Garretson

After all the controversy in previous elections, I would have expected elections to go very smoothly this time.  For the most part, that seems to be the case.  The local election with Singletary calling for an investigation is concerning and even more concerning is the equipment failure in the Arizona election process after all the controversy they faced in the past presidential election.  Maybe the election process needs a pre-flight checkoff plan like airplane pilots perform.  Elections should be easier to manage and just as serious as an airplane flight.
—Robert Lerner

Unhappy but shocked it wasn’t worse. I thought the Republicans put a lot of the wrong people in as candidates and the Dems did a terrible job with messaging, let the other Party control the narrative. The outcome will make it even harder to compromise and reach consensus on issues facing this country.
—Warren Hern

I’m very pleased with our statewide and local election results. Election deniers did not prevail, and that is good for our democracy. I am also eager to see how national races that are too close to call go, since the outcomes will determine the direction of Congressional policies important to our future.
—Sandra L. Frankel

I am disappointed we did not see the predicted Red Wave. But I am not surprised. I think that the nation is slightly conservative in its view of the role of government in our lives and economy. However, unless and until the GOP can move past its retrograde social policies, they will not win big majorities at a national level.
—John Calia

While I’m glad to see high turnout and picking mostly winners, I worry about the poor vote reporting process in the Morrelle/Singletary vote count.
—Remy Fenster

Paul Ericson is Rochester Beacon executive editor. The Beacon welcomes comments from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name.

9 thoughts on “The divide remains

  1. Frank is in the minority. Only 16% of the public have good confidence in newspaper reporting according to a recent Gallup poll. A Pew research poll concluded only 11% have good confidence in television news. I have hundreds of documented cases of misinformation and disinformation from the media including but not limited to NPR, Associated Press, USATODAY, Washington Post, New York Times, Democrat & Chronicle, Buffalo News, etc. Most of the Fox hosts like Hannity, Ingraham. Carlson. Bongino, Levin, etc are transparent that they are opinion shows.

    • Perhaps I am in the minority. I don’t know. Polls aren’t always completely reliable. I grew up in New York City in the fifties and sixties. We listened to WNYC, the Public Radio Station, and read several great newspapers, the NY Times and The Daily News, The Herald Tribune, and a host of magazines. The TV news was mostly NBC. In those days, I felt that it was more about facts and less about opinion. No doubt the internet changed everything. Some say that the net democratized information, but in so doing, it imposes upon the reader the job of editor and fact checker. I know that we all have biasis and “gut” feeling about things we experience and then extropolate our life experience on what we see and hear. However, if people I know and trust write something I tend to believe them. White it’s true newspapers and sometimes TV reporters make errors, if what they publish proves to be incorrect they almost always print or air retractions. When the white house spokesperson under the previous administration coined the phrase “alternate facts” that summed up the way the right wing looks at the world. It’s true that eye witnesses to a crime are notoriously unreliable, but media professionals are trained to be as objective as humanly possible. Finally, I must inject the notion that the vast majority of citizens do not read, and that includes newspapers. I’ve not seen data on how many people watch a daily national news program, but I wouldn’t be surprised if very few citizens bother to watch the news at all.

  2. I have no intention of offending anyone or insulting them. However, I trust the media, nationally and locally. All news outlets have editors and fact-checkers. It’s their lifeblood, to be honest, and accurate. The major media outlets likely originate from Northeast and Westcoast major cities and direct their information to a more educated and sophisticated audience. As fate would have it, many people in that target group tend to be more progressive. There is always the Wall Street Journal and the NY Post for people on the right. But I want to clarify that there is a very significant difference between news and opinion. Almost everything on FOX is an opinion dressed up as news. News is the accurate reporting of verifiable facts. We live in a world with far more material to be reported than anyone can possibly digest. It’s up to assignment editors, content editors, and news directors to decide what is ultimately reported. Sometimes, advertisers who pay for time or space in newspapers can make their bias; they usually don’t want to sponsor items that cause too much controversy. But if the consumers of news want to be informed accurately, they will read multiple newspapers, watch multiple TV news programs, and do searches on the internet. It’s not wise to count on just one source of news. Just because a credible news outlet’s material doesn’t align with your viewpoint doesn’t mean it’s biased.

  3. I agree with you, John. Also there was the selective censoring by news and social media Presenting an unbalanced point of view favoring Democrats over Republicans.

    On another point, it has been about four days since the election. Still some important election results have not been settled. This puts a lot of doubt in my mind. This should not have happened. For most of my life election day results were in and final on election day. Seems like some places are not prepared anymore and I cannot, as much as I would like to, believe that there isn’t something wrong with ballots and early voting processes.

  4. The biggest debacle of this election was the repeat of the partisan media having an unjustified influence on the election. A recent Gallup poll concluded that only 16% of the respondents have good confidence in newspaper reporting. Another poll concluded only 11% of respondents have good confidence in newscasts. The vast majority of the media act as a propaganda mechanism for the Democrats and the Left. As an example, there was substantial evidence of voter fraud in the 2020 election. However, the vast majority of the media referred to this as “baseless, without evidence, lies, false, etc”. I don’t think I saw any reporting in the local, regional or national media including the Beacon of the legislative hearings in November & December of 2020 regarding voter fraud and irregularities. I watched many of these hearings on Cspan and other television outlets. These hearings produced 900 affidavits and witnesses testifying to voter fraud and irregularities. This is only the tip of the iceberg. The misinformation and disinformation spewed by the mainstream media also applied to the invasion of illegal aliens, man made climate change, Covid lockdowns, the Biden family kickbacks from Communist China & other entities, the illegal collusion against Trump, the Hunter Biden laptop, antipolice, left wing violence, etc. There are dozens of other examples of media misinformation and disinformation against Republicans and conservatives which prevented the needed “Red Wave”.

  5. My mother taught me that everyone in this country is entitled to speak their mind, and she would fight to the death to defend that right. The founders believed (as far as I can tell) that rigorous debate of ideas usually leads to compromise with the best ideas coming out. These days most Republicans eschew reasonable discussion and revert to name-calling and demeaning the opposition. Weaker Democrats may respond in kind, and neither is acceptable. One big problem for me regarding Chief Singeltary is that he’s never held a lower political office. I’d like to have seen him run for School Board or City Council successfully before attempting a run for Congress.
    That said, and I know this is a generalization, too many people running for office don’t offer specific policy ideas. People in office for multiple years have a proven track record citizens can evaluate. Failing that, candidates need to impress me with their ideas and vision so I can compare them against other candidates. In this election cycle, it wasn’t Democrats vs. Republicans. It was Everyone against the Trump machine and its money. Trump, a disgraced and dangerous man wants toadies who kowtow to his dictates. GOP leaders sought pliable or easily manipulated candidates who will do their bidding. That is not democracy. President George Washington and other founders warned about the corrosive effect of political parties. However, the reality for many years is that citizens need political parties. I encourage the Beacon to provide a separate moderated forum for civil debate.

  6. I answered the survey too late as I did not see it early. I could not choose just one of the items of concern because for me, they are all concerning. I am not convinced that everyone really reads or investigates or understands the issues and they vote for a party even though the party is not the same party it used to be regardless of the issues or vote for issues without full understanding of what the impact is. With all the inflation of gas and food, illegal immigration and drugs coming over the border, governmental denial, etc., I don’t understand why those issues were basically ignored by voting for a party that was instrumental in causing some of this; And the amount of money used for the usual vitriol ads is astounding. Nationally about 1/2 the eligible voters even bothered to vote. Many voted early before debates occurred and this is not what I would call a good election system. We used to have results on Election Day! This system now of voting with ballots sometimes a month earlier and are not voted on election day, does not sit well with me. sometimes early voting is necessary but should be not more than a week before election day, and debates should be scheduled well in advance.of any voting. I don’t know if I do trust all ballots; there is room for dishonesty. When Ballots are filled out in nursing homes, do we know if someone is monitoring this process to be sure it is the residents’ votes and not the person who fills out the ballot of them? So Yes I am skeptical. All machines should be checked for accuracy before the election and not be a surprise problem as was in Arizona for the 2nd time. Running out of ink was one excuse? No one checked this? As it stands I can only side with the republicans who I hope will be the majority and will put a check on the overspending and very progressive ideas the Feds are doing and hopefully can bring back some of the normalcy we had before this administration.

  7. “Nearly all of those who took part in the Beacon’s post-election poll Wednesday—97 percent—said they were either very concerned or somewhat concerned about polarization in U.S. politics. When asked what is the most important problem facing the country today, the No. 1 response was ‘political polarization.’ ” YET __ “It was followed by climate change/environment (19 percent) and economy/jobs and state of democracy/election integrity (tied at 12 percent).” So apparently, in Beacon reader’s minds __ “political polarization is the most important problem facing the country today,” and apparently it is caused by, or at least closely connected/correlated with issues such as “climate change/environment, economy/jobs and state of democracy/election integrity” __ as opposed to (for example), individual, institutional, and structural RACISM.

  8. I agree with the comments that indicate how negative advertising for candidates inundates the airways for way too long. They must work. Otherwise, why would consultants and political leaders keep using them? I can’t help but wonder how much of the media outlets’ total revenue comes from these political onslaughts. I recall that the UK only allows campaigns a week or two to “inform” the electorate before the election. Wouldn’t that be nice? Now for the elephant in the room, the root cause of almost equal party votes is the quality of the candidates. Who in their right mind would pick a person like Herschel Walker to be their Senator, one of the most crucial elected representatives we choose? He’s not the only one. There are far too many representatives in both houses I would trust to walk a dog, yet these people make laws and set national policy. Do party leaders want pliable and easy-to-manipulate toadies? Whatever happened to the separation of powers and checks and balances? Not one comment addressed public funding of elections or term limits as viable solutions to preserving democracy. Smart, committed, and honest people won’t run for office. That’s not to say we don’t have any good representatives, but we need all of them to be top-notch. If we are to be captives of the two political parties, they must do a better job identifying, recruiting, and supporting the best individuals to represent us. If 2024 is to be a watershed moment for democracy. Citizens must get more involved and do as much as possible to convince reluctant, talented people to run for office and shake up the status quo.

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