Republicans and Democrats can't agree on much. Take our drinking habits; "Democrats sip white, Republicans chug red" says polling on what wine people like. When it comes to liquor, Republicans prefer Jim Beam, Democrats prefer Smirnoff. But Democrats may be less interested in choosing vodka these days, as polling shows partisanship coloring views of Russia and Vladimir Putin.
Even as Americans have elected a president who is profoundly non-ideological and has switched parties in his life, tribal partisanship is a potent lens through which Americans now view almost all news stories. Take polling on views of the economy; Republicans are less likely to say that their economic situation has improved since 2008 if the question mentions that is when President Obama was elected, and Democrats are less willing to say that income inequality has grown in that time period if Obama is named.
Attitudes about Russia are not immune from this phenomenon. In 2012, when Mitt Romney named Russia as our greatest geopolitical foe, Democrats scoffed and accused Republicans of trying to ignite a new Cold War. Now, it is Democrats who sound like Cold Warriors. And while it is far from the case that most Republicans are now enamored of Vladimir Putin, Republican views have taken a dramatic turn in the last year, and even questions of who is or is not America's ally are becoming influenced heavily by one's views of the 2016 election.
This has perhaps been most evident in the polling that is coming out around the question of Russia, Vladimir Putin, WikiLeaks and the hacking of emails related to the 2016 election. In reality, whether or not Russia was involved in the hacking that obtained private emails that were then provided to WikiLeaks is a knowable fact, not a partisan position. But with the WikiLeaks hacks now being blamed by many prominent Democrats as the reason why Hillary Clinton lost the election, the question of whether Putin is friend or foe becomes viewed through a partisan political lens, with predictable results.
To be sure, Republicans do not "suddenly love Vladimir Putin," as a New York magazine headline alleges. (I'm fairly certain that only being viewed favorably by 37 percent of a demographic group does not constitute being "loved" by them. President-elect Trump's overall favorability in the same poll comes in at 44 percent, and nobody is claiming that America "loves" Trump.) A majority of Trump voters view Russia as unfriendly, despite in the same poll saying that they think Trump views Russia as more of an ally.
Nonetheless, it is notable that more Republican voters have a favorable view of Putin than they do of Barack Obama. Furthermore, the speed of the shift in these views has been astonishing. Republicans and Democrats had similarly negative views on Putin as recently as summer of 2014, around the time that a Malaysia Airlines passenger flight was downed over Ukraine by what was alleged to have been a Russian missile. Fast forward to today, and Democrats are now even more unfavorable toward Putin, while Republicans are much, much less negative.
Even the question of whether Russia was involved in the hacks against entities such as the DNC is something viewed along partisan lines, with only 14 percent of Republicans saying they feel sure that the U.S. intelligence assessment of Russia's involvement is right, compared to 50 percent of Democrats.
It's not just Republicans who are changing their tunes on these questions. Five years ago, Democrats were more likely to call Russia a friend than an enemy, and their view of Russia has soured considerably. In fact, Republicans have been consistently more hostile to Russia than Democrats until the election.
Or take WikiLeaks, an organization that is viewed favorably and unfavorably by about equal numbers of Americans and has been since 2013. The composition of who likes (and who loathes) WikiLeaks has changed dramatically in the last three years, with Democrats going from being fairly neutral on the organization to being quite negative toward them today, after they distributed hacked emails from Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. Meanwhile, Republicans — no fans of the organization during the era of Edward Snowden and attacks on America's intelligence communities — now suddenly express warmer feelings toward the group.
So long as the discussion of Russia and WikiLeaks remains tied to discussion of the results of the election of the 2016 election, it is unlikely that the partisan divide will heal. When Democrats claim that Russia not only supported hacking but stole the election from Hillary Clinton, it puts the Russia issue in the middle of an extremely partisan debate litigating an election that is already decided.
A majority of Americans say that Russia's hacking is troubling, and a similar majority says that Russia's activities are not responsible for Trump's win. Let's close the book on the latter question and focus squarely on the former if we ever want to move beyond the partisan divide on this topic.
Kristen Soltis Anderson is a columnist for The Washington Examiner and author of "The Selfie Vote."