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The stark and growing racial divide in American politics, in 2 charts

Political scientist Lee Drutman wrote a lovely 4,800-word essay for Vox yesterday on how race and identity became the central dividing lines in American politics.

It’s a wonderful piece, and you should certainly read the whole thing. However, on the off chance that you were too busy to get all the way through it, I wanted to call attention to two striking charts that are buried pretty deep in the text.

They use American National Election Survey data to measure the difference in Republicans’ and Democrats’ feelings about black and Hispanic people — and they show something really shocking. Up until about 2004 or so, the partisan gap on these questions was narrow, and both Democrats and Republicans were growing generally friendlier to nonwhites. Then came 2008, Obama, and a massive resorting of sentiments. The partisan divide in sentiment became a chasm.

Here is the chart for African Americans:

And here it is for Hispanics:

Read Drutman for a deep-dive analysis, but these charts usefully summarize the fact that you’re not imagining things if you feel like something has changed.

Twenty years ago, the United States had bitter partisan politics, and it also had some bitter racial and ethnic conflicts. But those were largely two different kinds of conflicts. Today they’ve merged.