ST. LEO, FL – The United States is a country divided, according to a recent survey by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute ( The nonpartisan poll shows 82.1 percent of respondents agree the nation is more divided than ever before following a contentious presidential election and the installation of a new administration.

The online poll surveyed 1,073 adults in the United States from March 3 through March 11, 2017, and the results have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The survey included a section in which respondents were asked to read a statement and then indicate whether they agree or disagree with it, and to what extent. They were also given an option to say they don’t know or are unsure.

Fifty percent of respondents say they strongly agree and 32.1 percent say they somewhat agree that the United States is divided. Few disagree with that: 8.9 percent say they somewhat disagree, 3.8 say they strongly disagree, and 5.1 percent say they do not know or are unsure.

The sentiment is felt across political leanings. Among respondents who say they are conservative, 83 percent say the country is more divided, while 79.6 percent who identified themselves as moderate, and 89.2 percent who say they are liberal, agree.

Saint Leo’s poll indicates hope for reconciliation. The poll shows that 49.4 percent say that despite a sense of division in their communities, they are optimistic about reducing political discord. Another 37.2 percent say they do not think the divide can be bridged and 13.4 percent say they do not know. (“Don’t know” answers were omitted from the table for space).

Statements Strongly Agree Somewhat Agree Strongly
Somewhat Disagree
We are more divided as a nation than ever before 50.0% 32.1%  3.8% 8.9%
I see democracy slipping away in the United States 29.5% 35.7% 11.5% 15.6%
Despite the sense of division, in my own community, I am very optimistic about reducing political discord 13.5% 35.9% 14.7% 22.5%


The perception of a divided country seems to have led some to believe that democracy is

disappearing. The poll shows 29.5 percent strongly agree and 35.7 percent somewhat agree with the statement: “I see democracy slipping away in the United States.”  Saying they don’t know/not sure were 7.7 percent while 15.6 percent say they somewhat disagree and 11.5 percent say they strongly disagree.

Statements Strongly Agree Somewhat Agree Strongly
Somewhat Disagree
The new White House administration appears to be moving us toward authoritarianism 28.5% 23.4% 18.1% 13.6%
Not all free speech patterns should be protected 11.1% 24.4% 27.4% 26.1%
I trust the statements, releases and tweets from the new White House administration 9.4% 23.1%    37.3% 21.6%
At times, physical violence during demonstrations is justified 6.4% 11.1%    64.4% 11.9%
At times, property damage during demonstrations is justified 4.9% 9.3% 71.4%   9.1%


“These new findings confirms the feeling that the country is very, very divided,” said Frank Orlando, director of the Saint Leo University Polling Institute and a political scientist. “One of the most interesting things we find is that both people who voted for the president, and those who didn’t, worry that the country is in trouble. It points to the fact that perhaps people believe that the problems facing the country run deeper than something politics can fix.”

The Saint Leo Polling Institute also asked about other beliefs that may be related to this division.

Poll respondents say the new White House administration is leading the nation toward authoritarianism with 51.9 percent reporting they strongly or somewhat agree, and 31.7 saying they strongly or somewhat disagree.

When considering the concept of free speech, most say free speech should be protected. Support varies among age groups, though, with 40.9 percent of respondents younger than 35 saying they agree with a statement that not all speech should be protected. The popularity of that view diminished with age. Results show 34.8 percent of those ages 36 to 65 agree not all speech should be protected; that view is held by 28.2 percent of those older than 65 agree.

“This split may be caused by younger people thinking of restricting what they see as hate speech,” Orlando said. “This trend is something we observe worldwide with fewer people willing to accept an absolute freedom of expression.”

An age gap also is apparent in the Saint Leo poll responses regarding eruptions of violence or property damage at times during protests. The majority reject justifications for either. But among those who agree with statements that violence can sometimes be justified, or that property damage can sometimes be justified, a youth factor is apparent.

The 35-and younger age group has the largest segment who say sometimes violence during demonstrations and property damage during demonstrations is justified, with 30.8 percent and 25.2 percent agreeing with those statements, respectively. The percentage of older respondents who answered this way was notably less; among ages 36 to 65 those agreeing with a justification for violence was 15.2 percent, while 12.7 percent agree that destruction of property could sometimes be justified. Among those 65 and older, only 2.5 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively, agree with these views.

“Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that younger voters are more ‘revolutionary’ than their older counterparts,” said Orlando, the polling institute director. “They certainly have less to lose from property damage, and, in their minds, more to gain in the long term from protests that change policy. These large differences show that the likelihood of civil unrest remains high during the [Donald] Trump presidency. Remarkably, there was no significant difference in support for violent and damaging protest between Trump and Hillary [Clinton] voters.”

Those who could agree violent action was sometimes justified numbered 20.8 percent among Trump voters and 17.4 percent of Clinton voters. Those who agree damage to property during protests is sometimes justifiable came to 17.9 percent of Trump voters and 14 percent of Clinton voters. Of the total number of respondents, 43.8 percent say they voted for Clinton in the 2016 presidential election and 35.4 percent voted for Trump.

See the full Poll Reports narrative at


Media contacts: Jo-Ann Johnston, Saint Leo University, University Communications or (352) 588-8237 or (352) 467-0843 (cell/text).     

Mary McCoy, Saint Leo University, University Communications or (352) 588-7118 or (813) 610-8416 (cell/text).


More About Our Research

METHODOLOGY: All surveys were conducted using an online survey instrument. The national poll of 1,073 adults was conducted from March 3 through March 11, 2017 and has a plus or minus 3.0 percent margin of error. A sample of 507 adults in Florida were also surveyed during the same time period. The findings from the Florida survey have a plus or minus 4.5 percent margin of error.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. The sample is drawn from large online panels, which allow for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups. Online methodology has the additional advantage of allowing participants to respond to the survey at a time, place, and speed that is convenient to them, which may result in more thoughtful answers. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute develops the questionnaires, administers the surveys, and conducts analysis of the results. Panel participants typically receive a token incentive—usually $1 deposited into an iTunes or Amazon account—for their participation.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey results about national and Florida politics, public policy issues, Pope Francis’ popularity, and other topics, can be found here: You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls.


About Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University ( is a modern Catholic teaching university that is firmly grounded in the liberal arts tradition and the timeless Benedictine wisdom that seeks balanced growth of mind, body, and spirit. The Saint Leo University of today is a private, nonprofit institution that creates hospitable learning communities wherever our students want to be or need to be, whether that is a campus classroom, a web-based environment, an employer’s worksite, a military base, or an office park. We welcome people of all faiths and of no religious affiliation, and encourage learners of all generations. We are committed to providing educational

opportunities to our nation’s armed forces, our veterans, and their families. We are regionally accredited to award degrees ranging from the associate to the doctorate, and we guide all our students to develop their capacities for critical thinking, moral reflection, and lifelong learning and leadership.

We remain the faithful stewards of the beautiful lakeside University Campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, where our founding monks created the first Catholic college in the state in 1889. Serving nearly 15,000 students, we have expanded to downtown Tampa, to other sites in Florida and beyond, and maintain a physical presence in seven states. We provide highly respected online learning programs to students nationally and internationally. More than 82,000 alumni reside in all 50 states, in Washington, DC, in three U.S. territories, and in 76 countries.