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Monday, August 21, 2023

Participation, Education, and News Consumption Do Not Ease Polarization

James Davenport at NonDoc:
Our disdain for one another leads us to separate from one another, which, in turn, leads us to misunderstand one another. Worse yet, many of the social sciences’ presumed solutions to reduce this polarization might not actually work. The YouGov/More in Common research discovered that political participation does not help reduce the perception gap. Instead, they found that the more ideological and politically active one may be, the larger their misperceptions about those in the other party may become. Conversely, the politically “disengaged” had the smallest perception gap among those in the survey.

Similarly, news consumption helps reduce polarization much less than the journalism world would hope. Those who followed the news “most of the time” had a much larger misunderstanding of their political opponents than those who did not pay attention to the news, according to the study. In fact, these researchers found that only the traditional and national network television news had a positive impact on how accurately partisans viewed one another. When one considers the ideological segmentation of the news media and its subsequent reinforcement of political polarization of the public, this finding may not be surprising, but it is nonetheless depressing.

Another surprise from the YouGov/More in Common study was that education does not help reduce the perception gap either. These researchers discovered that while increased educational attainment among Republicans did not reveal a difference in how they perceived Democrats, tiers of Democrats with higher education levels showed significantly increased misunderstanding of their Republican counterparts.

“This effect is so strong that Democrats without a high school diploma are three times more accurate than those with a postgraduate degree,” the study’s authors wrote. In examining the data, they speculated that this outcome was due, in part, to highly educated Democrats reporting less ideologically diverse friendship networks than more educated Republicans.