CREATING A DIAGNOSTIC TOOL
Deepening polarization among Democrats and Republicans in the United States represents a major challenge to American political and social life. Left unaddressed, it will further weaken the United States domestically and around the world. Existing measures of polarization, such as polls and voting patterns, don’t accurately capture the underlying psychological mechanisms involved. This prevents us from accurately diagnosing harmful polarization, understanding what is making it worse, and developing effective solutions to it.
After 30 years of working around the globe to bring peace and reconciliation to deeply divided societies, Beyond Conflict launched an unprecedented research project in 2018, the Beyond Conflict Polarization Index™, featured in our upcoming report, America’s Divided Mind. Our research has found a consistent pattern. There is a wide divide between perception and reality across key measures of the Beyond Conflict Polarization Index™. Americans incorrectly believe that members of the other party dehumanize, dislike, and disagree with them about twice as much as they actually do. In short, we believe we’re more polarized than we really are—and that misperception can drive us even further apart. The divide is correlated with outcomes that are consequential for democracy and represent a new degree of toxic polarization in America.
When it’s fully built, the Polarization Index will be used as a diagnostic tool and source of reference for organizations (e.g. journalists, politicians, civic organizations, advocacy groups, religious and other local and national organizations) looking to determine if they are increasing or decreasing polarization.
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