The feeling that work is taking over our lives is pervasive: a new poll shows that 40 percent of Americans believe a good work-life balance is unattainable. But what's really interesting is that there's a rather stark partisan divide on this question.
According to the latest Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll, 49 percent of Democrats agreed that succeeding at both work and family life is impossible, compared to 28 percent of Republicans. And perhaps even that doesn't surprise you — women (the gender that is constantly asked whether they can "have it all") are of course more likely to vote Democrat than Republican. But the results seem to be about more than gender.
Democratic men (41 percent) are more likely than Republican women (32 percent) to agree with this point — it's only barely outside the margin of error, but it suggests factors beyond gender are at work.
The trend is similar when you ask the reverse of the question: whether they agree that balance is possible "if [people] set the right priorities." On this question, Democratic men and Republican women are roughly the same (54 vs. 57 percent). But in general, Democrats are still less optimistic about work-life balance than Republicans, with independents in between — and men of any political persuasion always being more optimistic about it than women.
What's going on here? Part of it may be demographic factors — for example, single moms have proven far more likely to vote Democrat than Republican, and they also have no partners to help them juggle the demands of providing for and raising a family.
But of course, people sort into parties by their views, and the parties take different views on work. Democrats are, of course, the party of labor rights and tend to push workplace policies that promote work-life balance, like paid leave and higher wages. Republicans, meanwhile, are the party of self-reliance and business, being far more likely than Democrats to believe the economy is "fair" in terms of personal opportunity to get ahead. They're more likely to say that government aid to the poor "does more harm than good."
While these don't really get at the question of work-life balance, they do get at attitudes of what the government should do to help workers — notice that that second question asked if work-life balance was achievable if people "set the right priorities." So if you find yourself working extra this weekend, whom you blame may come down to your party — either the system is unfairly rigged against you, or you just really need to work on your time management.