Fewer than half (46%) among the American public now see the country as more politically divided than in the past, down 20 points from January 2007 (66%); this is the first time in several years, that there has been a sharp decline in the proportion of Americans who see increasing partisan division. Moreover, the percentage saying that Republicans and Democrats in Washington will work together more to solve problems, rather than bicker and oppose each other, is markedly higher than at the start of either of President Bush’s two terms. Currently, 50% say the two parties will work together more to solve problems, while 39% expect more partisan bickering. Four years ago, just 30% said the two parties would work cooperatively while nearly twice as many (59%) said they anticipated more partisan bickering. Public expectations for partisan cooperation are now as great as in January 2002, amid the mood of national unity that prevailed after the Sept. 11 attacks. Democrats are particularly optimistic about prospects for partisan cooperation: 59% of Democrats say they expect the two parties to work together more, compared with 49% of independents and 40% of Republicans. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.