Well, so much for the disturbing new phenomenon of the deeply polarized nation. Here's a front-page New York Times story on the scary 50-50 nation. Now, look at the chart below the second photo on the right. It lists all the sitting presidents since Eisenhower who wanted to be returned to office; citing Gallup, the chart shows the largest measured gap between Democratic and Republican voters' approval of those presidents in election years.
The biggest Democrat-Republican gap in approval of Bush this year has been 74 points. Pretty bad, huh? But here are Gallup's numbers for Bush's immediate predecessors:
Bush the Elder: 62%
Prior to that, the gap never got above 50%, from Eisenhower in '56 to Carter in '80.
People forget how polarizing the Reagan years were. ("I never use the words Democrats and Republicans." --Interior Secretary James Watt, 1982) We've been in 50-50 nation for a long time.