Presentation Title

Why Would I Want to Talk to Them? An Exploration of Attitudes Towards Talking Across the Red-Blue Political Divide

Presenter Information

Mindy BurrellFollow

Start Date

10-2-2021 3:15 PM

End Date

10-2-2021 4:30 PM

Proposal Type

Presentation

Proposal Description

Americans are increasingly reluctant to talk across the political divide, a problematic situation for a system predicated on a citizenry exploring a marketplace of ideas and arriving at policy consensus. This becomes even more problematic in the current moment, when national health and economic crises, as well as longstanding issues of racial injustice, call on citizens to be able to talk with each other in a comprehensive, solution-oriented fashion. To shed light on the possibility for better communication across the US political divide, this paper will present results of a qualitative, exploratory study around the research question of how conservatives and liberals experience communicating across the political divide. Interviews with 15 conservatives and 15 liberals are analyzed thematically and narratively. Findings are that actual cross-divide conversations occurred only rarely, as participants avoided them out of fear of jeopardizing relationships or reputation. When participants did interact across the divide, the interactions tended to be highly emotional assertions of identity and values rather than rational policy-oriented discussions. Race was found to be at the heart of these starkly differing worldviews that create communication problems. In an already divided context, these interactions contributed to escalating conflict dynamics. Participants nonetheless indicated a desire to talk across the divide and described factors that would assist them to do so, as well as examples of micro-cultures where such respectful conversations were a norm. A conclusion is that a quest for safety and comfort (cognitive, social, emotional, and physical) both drives the polarization and can help shape interventions to overcome it. The findings and conclusion can help propel conflict resolution theories into the long-established political science subfield of political talk.

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Feb 10th, 3:15 PM Feb 10th, 4:30 PM

Why Would I Want to Talk to Them? An Exploration of Attitudes Towards Talking Across the Red-Blue Political Divide

Americans are increasingly reluctant to talk across the political divide, a problematic situation for a system predicated on a citizenry exploring a marketplace of ideas and arriving at policy consensus. This becomes even more problematic in the current moment, when national health and economic crises, as well as longstanding issues of racial injustice, call on citizens to be able to talk with each other in a comprehensive, solution-oriented fashion. To shed light on the possibility for better communication across the US political divide, this paper will present results of a qualitative, exploratory study around the research question of how conservatives and liberals experience communicating across the political divide. Interviews with 15 conservatives and 15 liberals are analyzed thematically and narratively. Findings are that actual cross-divide conversations occurred only rarely, as participants avoided them out of fear of jeopardizing relationships or reputation. When participants did interact across the divide, the interactions tended to be highly emotional assertions of identity and values rather than rational policy-oriented discussions. Race was found to be at the heart of these starkly differing worldviews that create communication problems. In an already divided context, these interactions contributed to escalating conflict dynamics. Participants nonetheless indicated a desire to talk across the divide and described factors that would assist them to do so, as well as examples of micro-cultures where such respectful conversations were a norm. A conclusion is that a quest for safety and comfort (cognitive, social, emotional, and physical) both drives the polarization and can help shape interventions to overcome it. The findings and conclusion can help propel conflict resolution theories into the long-established political science subfield of political talk.