Can We Reduce Partisan Animosity? New Analysis Finds Promise in Previous Research
Partisan animosity is a growing concern in the United States and abroad, but a new analysis outlines ways to potentially diminish a sentiment that has come to define today’s political landscape.
In an analysis of more than 40 studies, which appears in the journal Nature Human Behavior, a team of researchers spotlights multiple means to decrease political division:
- Correcting misconceptions and highlighting commonalities
- Building dialogue skills
- Changing public discourse and transforming political structures
“No single strategy is likely to reduce polarization for every audience and every issue, so our analysis points to ways we can take targeted approaches to address different groups and circumstances,” says Kurt Gray, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and one of the authors of the paper.
“Reducing partisan animosity is surely a challenge, but this work shows that successful interventions can help partisans gain more accurate perceptions of each other and recognize the similarities they share,” adds Rachel Hartman, a doctoral student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the paper’s lead author.
The researchers add that the work is potentially applicable to other countries, which are also experiencing “the onset of pernicious polarization,” according to a January 2022 study by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“Although most studies for reducing partisan animosity focus on the United States, recent research also suggests that interventions developed to address American polarization can be highly effective for reducing partisan animosity in other countries,” notes co-author Jay Van Bavel, a professor in New York University’s Department of Psychology and co-author of The Power of Us: Harnessing Our Shared Identities to Improve Performance, Increase Cooperation, and Promote Social Harmony.
While partisan polarization has been a part of the U.S. political landscape for centuries, “(g)rowing shares in each party now describe those in the other party as more closed-minded, dishonest, immoral, and unintelligent than other Americans,” the Pew Research Center reported in August.
In an effort to identify potential ways to reduce partisan animosity, the researchers considered studies that focused on illuminating its nature and experiments aimed at diminishing it. Through this analysis, they were able to gain a greater understanding of what interventions are likely to be successful in lowering the partisan temperature that has come to define public life in the U.S.