Red-state Donald Trump voters are now more likely to say they’d be personally “better off” (33%) than “worse off” (29%) if their state seceded from the U.S. and “became an independent country,” according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll.
It’s a striking rejection of national unity that dramatizes the growing culture war between Democratic- and Republican-controlled states on core issues such as guns, abortion and democracy itself. And an even larger share of red-state Trump voters say their state as a whole would be better off (35%) rather than worse off (30%) if it left the U.S.
The survey of 1,672 U.S. adults, which was conducted from July 8 to 11, comes as a series of hard-line conservative decisions by the Supreme Court — coupled with continued gridlock on Capitol Hill — have shifted America’s center of political gravity back to the states, where the parties in power are increasingly filling the federal void with far-reaching reforms of their own.
The further apart they push their states — on voting rights, on misinformation, on post-Roe regulations, on gun-safety measures — the more the country morphs into what one political analyst has described as “a federated republic of two nations: Blue Nation and Red Nation.”
“[This] is a defining characteristic of 21st-century America,” the Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein recently argued. “The result through the 2020s could be a dramatic erosion of common national rights and a widening gulf — a ‘great divergence’ — between the liberties of Americans in blue states and those in red states.”
Regardless of where they live, most Americans are hardly ready to dissolve the union (even though, in a previous Yahoo News/YouGov poll, a majority of Republicans [52%] did predict that “there will be a civil war in the United States in [their] lifetime”).
Overall, just 17% of Americans actually want their state to “leave the U.S. and become an independent country,” a number that is remarkably consistent across party lines. Only slightly more (19%) favor “the U.S. eventually becoming two countries — one consisting of ‘blue states’ run by Democrats and one consisting of ‘red states’ run by Republicans.”
But dig a little deeper and it becomes clear that this level of consensus is, in part, an illusion.
For the purposes of the survey, Yahoo News defined red states as those with consistent Republican control on the state level in recent years, and blue states as those with consistent Democratic control. Divided states were excluded.
Yet despite obvious and expected differences in party composition, neither red nor blue states consist of anywhere near monolithically Republican or Democratic populations. In fact, across all Yahoo News/YouGov polls conducted so far this year, more than a third of red-state respondents (34%) identify as Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents; likewise, more than a quarter of blue-state respondents (26%) identify as Republicans or Republican leaners.
In other words, there are a lot of blue-state and red-state residents who have more in common with their political brethren elsewhere than with their governors or state legislatures.
To truly gauge the gap between red states and blue states, then, it helps to set aside these mostly powerless political minorities and focus instead on the dominant voters who are actually steering state leaders to the left or the right.
Among red-state Trump voters, 92% trust their state government more than the federal government to do “what’s best.” Almost as many (86%) say the federal government is “not working well”; a full two-thirds (67%) insist it’s not working well “at all.”
In contrast, nearly 8 in 10 red-state Trump voters (79%) say their state government is working well, with huge majorities approving of how state leaders are handling guns (78%), democracy (73%), COVID-19 (71%), race (69%), the economy (68%), crime (65%) and abortion (63%).
As a result, red-state Trump voters are alone in saying that it’s more important for “individual states to make their own laws with minimal interference from the federal government” (56%) than it is for “the federal government to protect people’s constitutional rights when violated by state laws” (33%).
And red-state Trump voters divide roughly down the middle on the question of whether things would be better (37%) or worse (40%) if the country as a whole actually split into a Blue Nation and a Red Nation. No other cohort views disunion so favorably.
Blue-state Joe Biden voters, for instance, are only slightly more inclined (27%) than Americans as a whole (21%) to say things would be better if America broke in two. Just 14% want their own state to secede, versus 29% of red-state Trump voters. And only slightly more blue-state Biden voters (21%) think they themselves would be better off in such a scenario; a full 47% say they’d be worse off.
Given that Democrats generally trust Washington, D.C., more than Republicans do — and currently control it — this may not come as a surprise. But much like red-state Trump voters, blue-state Biden voters also prefer their state government to the federal government by sizable margins.
In fact, blue-state Biden voters (75%) are actually more likely than red-state Trump voters (65%) to say America as a whole would be better off if it “did things more like their state.” They’re also more likely to say their state government is working well (84%) — and nearly as likely to say they trust their state government (80%) over the federal government (20%) to do “what’s best.”
Frustrated by the 60-vote threshold to defeat a filibuster, most Biden voters everywhere (53%) say the U.S. Senate has “too much power”; more than three-quarters (76%) say the same of the 6-3 conservative Supreme Court. Nearly half of Biden voters (48%) say they’ve “considered moving to a different country because of politics.” And nearly 6 in 10 blue-state Trump voters say they’ve considered moving to another state for the same reason.
In short, America’s “great divergence” isn’t a one-sided phenomenon. It’s happening in both Red America and Blue America.
Why? The new Yahoo News/YouGov poll hints at two reasons. The first is pervasive — and not particularly partisan — disillusionment with America as a whole.
Exactly two years ago, a clear plurality of Americans (46%) told Yahoo News and YouGov that the nation’s “best days are still to come”; at the time, just 25% believed the United States’ best days were “behind us.”
Now those numbers are reversed, with 37% saying our best days are behind us and just 31% saying they’re still to come. Similarly, just 19% of Americans predicted two years ago that “their children” would be worse off than they are; today, a full 46% believe the “next generation” will be worse off than their own. That’s a stunning change.
Overall, two thirds of Americans (65%) say the federal government is not working well. Just 23% say the opposite.
It’s no wonder, then, that blue- and red-state residents who agree with the party in power there are retreating into their respective geographic corners. It’s no wonder, either, that they increasingly see each other as cautionary tales — the second factor that seems to be supercharging the “great divergence.”
When asked to compare red states to blue states on a host of issues, red-state Trump voters say by wide margins that blue states have more gun deaths (68%) and discrimination (56%), while red states have more economic growth (75%) and education (55%).
Blue-state Biden voters, in contrast, say it is red states that suffer more gun deaths (62%) and discrimination (75%) — and blue states that enjoy more economic growth (65%) and education (77%).
Obviously, both sides can’t be right. (According to Brownstein, blue-state Biden voters are closer to the mark; other analysts might disagree). But that isn’t stopping either side from thinking the worst of the other.
The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,672 U.S. adults interviewed online from July 8 to 11, 2022. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, as well as 2020 presidential vote (or nonvote) and voter registration status. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. adults. The margin of error is approximately 2.6%.