Can't we all just get along?

What you said

"You see the polarization on TV. People are fed up with Washington. I would call myself a Reagan conservative. I disagree with the other side. I'm not a big Obama fan. I had hope when he was elected, but he didn't carry through. The two sides will probably never come to a compromise, but on the other hand, our system of government wasn't designed for this. It's bicameral. If you read history, this was how it was in George Washington's days."

- Sam Shaw, 68, Wando

"They've always been polarized. They always will be. It seems like if you're a Republican, you vote Republican no matter what. I think Democrats in general have a more open mind. I'm definitely not a Republican, but I don't like to affiliate because they all have their problems. They don't seem to be getting anything accomplished."

- Brian Schipa, 43, James Island

"People do what they want, or what they see on TV. When I vote, I vote for whoever I think is less likely to screw things up. I would definitely consider myself more conservative. What people do is they grasp onto these small ideals and vote completely based on that. Compromise? There's only one definition: meeting in the middle, not more toward one side."

- Katie Jones, 27, Mount Pleasant

"I see the polarization. Other countries have systems with more parties, but here there's just two, so it's not surprising. I lean toward Libertarian. I don't like to pretend like anyone's my enemy, because that's what gave rise to the system we have today."

- Corey Klawunder, 20, Charleston

"I definitely see division. There's division everywhere. We still haven't gotten over the North/South divide from the Civil War yet. As long as we're divided, the country's not going to do well. I don't vote, unless Hillary (Clinton) runs, because I don't like any of them. When people start thinking for themselves, then maybe things will be good."

- Lisa Morrer, 52, Hanahan

"There's absolutely less middle ground today. The bipartisanship is bad on both sides. I don't think it is predominant in either one. They're both acting like bad kids. I was raised Republican, because I'm for smaller government, but I like the social aspects of what the Democrats used to be for. I guess I'd consider myself Libertarian. I'm not really happy with anyone."

- Mike Brown, 52, North Charleston

"I don't see the polarization in my life, but I see it when I turn on the news. People are strongheaded. Wouldn't the best compromises be what works for both parties, not what works best for me?"

- Miles Perry, 23, Mount Pleasant

"As a prior politician in small-town New York, it seemed like the larger the city or town, the more polarization there was. Honestly, some issues, there is nothing you can do about it. I've voted across party lines before. There is an 'other side' for me, but I consider myself more moderate. I'm not an 'ultra' anything. To have progress, you've got to have compromise."

- Brad Mallett, 46, Summerville

"I'm very familiar with political division. I see it in all of my endeavors. I'm a local farmer, and as I've traveled through the Lowcountry, there's different political opinions on how to run my business because of conflicting ordinances."

- Raychelle E. Bennett, 57, Ravenel

Evidently, no we can't. And it's getting worse.

The political left and right in America are as far apart as they've been in decades, a new study shows, affecting most every facet of our daily life.

From where we live to what we eat, from how we work to who we associate with - even what television programs we most often tune in to - all are being influenced more often by our political views and the desire for the association of "sameness."

In short: Political polarization has become a defining feature of early 21st century America.

"One part of the community is looking at the Democrats; one part of the community is looking at Wall Street," said University of South Carolina political scientist Mark Tompkins, summarizing one of the many places where Americans place blame for their problems.

"That is what is pulling us apart," he said.

Tompkins' comments came in response to Thursday's release of a year-long study on "polarization" in America conducted by the Pew Research Center.

The group surveyed more than 10,000 adults between January and March, discovering that Republicans and Democrats are further apart ideologically than at any point in recent history, with each side blaming the other.

The vast majority indicates there's not much room for compromise, even to the point of saying the opposing party's policies "represent a threat to the nation's well-being," researchers found.

The same divisions can be heard among the voices in South Carolina.

The sides "are as opposite as day is night," said Mary Caret, 73, of Hanahan. "Our freedoms are being taken away. I'm Republican and very conservative. It is so bad that the news media protects (President) Obama. Only Fox News reports on what's going on. We're going to be like Cuba if our freedoms keep getting taken away."

Marie Delcioppo, 38, Daniel Island, owner of Lowcountry Vegan, said, "I feel like there is no middle ground, and I feel like a lot of people feel like me: that it's the same circus, different clowns on both sides. I'm definitely more liberal. ... There's too much 'you're wrong, I'm right' going on. If what you're doing is not working, try something different."

And while Americans are moving outward to the left and right, centrists are finding themselves more isolated in their choices.

Tompkins said South Carolina's current political landscape mirrors the Pew findings at even more concentrated levels, as political gerrymandering has segregated the electorate, the power base and political choices, with suburbs becoming more homogenous.

"First you recognize those of us who are white and those who aren't," he said of where the dividing line begins in South Carolina. "That sort of starts the conversation."

But the bottom line, he said, is that Americans are less interested in leaving their comfort zone when it comes to politics, religion, neighborhoods, discourse and culture.

The findings say "I want people around me who are like me," Tompkins said.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.