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Polarization, data, and conflict in the US

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Has political polarization increased in America? There are many data sets available to suggest that it has, both in Congress and among Americans in general. But there may be no good reason for each side to distrust the other. Very simple psychological experiments demonstrate integroup bias -- humans will distrust "outsiders" for no reason, even if groups are assigned by coin flip. To counteract this, we look at basic conflict transformation principles.

Published in: Education, News & Politics
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Polarization, data, and conflict in the US

  1. 1. POLARIZATION, DATA, CONFLICT TRANSFORMATION Jonathan Stray Catalytic Converter 2013-8-10
  2. 2. liberal republican democrat conservative right left progressive
  3. 3. legalize gay marriage higher minimum wage less regulation address climate change lower taxes greater military spending pro-choice
  4. 4. Ideology "Coherence of opinions across issues is generally regarded as one of the key indicators of ideological thinking." - Is Polarization a Myth? Abramowitz and Saunders, 2008
  5. 5. Polarization in Congress
  6. 6. Polarization among Americans
  7. 7. Polarization and Participation
  8. 8. Retweet network of political tweets. From Conover, et. al., Political Polarization on Twitter
  9. 9. Graph of political book sales during 2008 U.S. election, by orgnet.org From Amazon "users who bought X also bought Y" data.
  10. 10. Gun violence polarization on Twitter
  11. 11. Types of bias Bias affects cognition (information processing), affect (emotional response), and behavior. •  Stereotype: a mental image of a member of a particular group •  Prejudice: attitude toward a member of a particular group •  Discrimination: inappropriate treatment of a member of a particular group Also: •  explicit (they'll tell you) vs. implicit (they won't) •  favor ingroup vs. harm outgroup
  12. 12. latte-drinking bicycle church SUV rural urban guns science
  13. 13. What's a "group"? Take 50 people. Divide them into two groups based on a coin flip (but tell them it's based on a simple test.) Tell each person to split $10 among as many people as they like. Tell them they'll get all the money that other people allocate to them. What happens?
  14. 14. Minimal Group Paradigm •  group assignments are random •  group members have no history •  group members never meet •  you cannot award money to yourself And yet... people award more money to the ingroup and less to outgroup. Reproduced, in variations, for 40 years.
  15. 15. Group identity triggers The purpose of this questionnaire is to get your views of the news media in general. In recent times the differences between Republicans and Democrats have become highly polarized. Many of the issues discussed in the media are seen very differently by Republicans and Democrats. In this context, it is important to gauge people’s views of the media. With increasing globalization, it has become apparent that the media differs across countries and cultures. Al Jazeera has become the voice for much of the Arab world, both within the United States and in the Middle East. Given these changes, it is important to gauge people’s views of the news media in the United States.
  16. 16. Reminding people of ingroup-outgroup distinction increases perceptions of bias!
  17. 17. Conflict transformation "Conflict should not be regarded as an isolated event that can be resolved or managed, but as an integral part of society’s on-going evolution and development" - TransConflict
  18. 18. What is the problem? Most conflict transformation is concerned with ending violent conflict. But partisan conflict in the U.S. is not (usually) violent. So how do we know when conflict transformation has succeeded?
  19. 19. Do you understand the other? A simple test: Can you explain their point of view in a way they would endorse?
  20. 20. Use the other's language
  21. 21. Issues, not people Don't assume that someone will disagree with you on every issue just because they are a "conservative." Exert power over issues, not people.
  22. 22. Distinguish Positions vs. Interests Position: what someone says they want Interest: why they want it E.g. "no more regulation" is a position. "middle class job growth" is an interest.
  23. 23. Talk to the outgroup! How many conservative friends do you have? How many conservative friends do you want? Note that bridge-builders are usually hated by both sides. At first.

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