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posted by janrinok on Monday January 27 2020, @05:46PM   Printer-friendly

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Political polarization among Americans has grown rapidly in the last 40 years—more than in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia or Germany—a phenomenon possibly due to increased racial division, the rise of partisan cable news and changes in the composition of the Democratic and Republican parties.

That's according to new research co-authored by Jesse Shapiro, a professor of political economy at Brown University. The study, conducted alongside Stanford University economists Levi Boxell and Matthew Gentzkow, was released on Monday, Jan. 20, as a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper.

In the study, Shapiro and colleagues present the first ever multi-nation evidence on long-term trends in "affective polarization"—a phenomenon in which citizens feel more negatively toward other political parties than toward their own. They found that in the U.S., affective polarization has increased more dramatically since the late 1970s than in the eight other countries they examined—the U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Switzerland, Norway and Sweden.

"A lot of analysis on polarization is focused on the U.S., so we thought it could be interesting to put the U.S. in context and see whether it is part of a global trend or whether it looks more exceptional," Shapiro said. "We found that the trend in the U.S. is indeed exceptional."

Using data from four decades of public opinion surveys conducted in the nine countries, the researchers used a so-called "feeling thermometer" to rate attitudes on a scale from 0 to 100, where 0 reflected no negative feelings toward other parties. They found that in 1978, the average American rated the members of their own political party 27 points higher than members of the other major party. By 2016, Americans were rating their own party 45.9 points higher than the other party, on average. In other words, negative feelings toward members of the other party compared to one's own party increased by an average of 4.8 points per decade.

The researchers found that polarization had also risen in Canada, New Zealand and Switzerland in the last 40 years, but to a lesser extent. In the U.K., Australia, Germany, Norway and Sweden, polarization decreased.

More information: Levi Boxell et al, Cross-Country Trends in Affective Polarization, (2020). DOI: 10.3386/w26669

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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by slinches on Tuesday January 28 2020, @12:21AM

    by slinches (5049) on Tuesday January 28 2020, @12:21AM (#949692)

    The way I see it, Trump is a symptom of the discord as much as he is the cause of it. If we had collectively decided that decorum, respect for an opponent and rational arguments should win out over trolling and emotional ploys then he never would have been elected. So, in essence he is doing what he was elected to do, be the troll-in-chief. I was hoping it would inspire a backlash against this sort of poisonous rhetoric, but so far almost everyone has just stooped to his level. Maybe it needs to get worse before it can get better or maybe we are all doomed. Either way, Trump is just accelerating us along that path rather than putting us on it.

    That being said, I think the problem of political division is mostly one of perception rather than people really moving that much further apart ideologically. The "ideological gap" between random individuals may not be much different than it ever was, rather it just appears much bigger. When people who already know and respect each other talk about politics in person, it's amicable and more often than not they can at least find enough common ground to understand the other's argument even when neither side "wins". Now most political discussions have moved from face to face discussions with friends to open internet forums and social media sites. There we can choose to hide opinions we aren't comfortable with by assuming nefarious motives and block them in favor of being validated by others we agree with. This is the essence of the filter bubble effect that is pushing the most extreme ideas to further extremes while silencing moderating influences. Even when those moderate opinions are dominant, they are dispersed at the edges of multiple "ideologically pure" self selecting bubbles, which makes them appear less popular. So, the ideas can spread further apart even when the people who hold them don't.

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