Politics now more divisive than Race
January 9, 2016 6:48 AM   Subscribe

"When defined in terms of social identity and affect toward copartisans and opposing partisans, the polarization of the American electorate has dramatically increased...Our evidence demonstrates that hostile feelings for the opposing party are ingrained or automatic in voters’ minds, and that affective polarization based on party is just as strong as polarization based on race. We further show that party cues exert powerful effects on nonpolitical judgments and behaviors. Partisans discriminate against opposing partisans, doing so to a degree that exceeds discrimination based on race. " (PDF).

For a short walk-through of the paper in layman's terms, see Johnathan Haidt's Edge response. He also predicts that as Democrats come to dominate higher education, bipartisan support for public universities, state-funded research, and academic freedom will wane.
posted by d. z. wang (114 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
I utterly don't get why people are surprised that people trust those with similar political leanings more than those with strongly different political leanings unless the surprised parties are members of that particular noxious tribe of idiots who view political differences as merely a matter of taste and not differing worldviews informed by deeply-held values. Of course you trust people more when they have similar values to your own! That's not news! And oh, hey, Johnathan Haidt (whose sideline as a pundit has for some time now been the guy who goes on TV, identifies himself as a liberal, and explains how awful liberals are) happens to be a member of exactly that grouping of dumbshits, not that that should be any surprise. He studies morality like an entomologist who is disgusted by insects.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:06 AM on January 9, 2016 [56 favorites]


He also predicts that as Democrats come to dominate higher education, bipartisan support for public universities, state-funded research, and academic freedom will wane.
I think that's already happened, for what it's worth, although I think the reasons are somewhat more complicated than just that Democrats dominate higher education.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:09 AM on January 9, 2016 [12 favorites]


Yeah, that's been going on for fifty years. Hatred of universities has been a part of mainstream Republican thought since at least the 60's. Predicting that conservatives will hate, fear, and attack higher education is like predicting that if things keep going the way they are, computers might start to get smaller, faster, and cheaper.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:12 AM on January 9, 2016 [41 favorites]


Sorry, I see that including Johnathan Haidt was a mistake. I only did it because (1) his Edge response was how I found the paper and (2) he walked me through the methods. Can we use his article as a guide for understanding the paper, and not focus on Johnathan Haidt himself?
posted by d. z. wang at 7:15 AM on January 9, 2016 [9 favorites]


Of course you trust people more when they have similar values to your own! That's not news!
A voice with a Southern accent barked over the loudspeaker, "I’d rather see Hitler and Hirohito win than work next to a [N-word]."
That was barely two generations ago. It is somewhat newsworthy (or at least academicstudyworthy) to have empirical evidence that attitudes like that are fading.
posted by Etrigan at 7:24 AM on January 9, 2016 [14 favorites]


'We found another way to oppress you'.
posted by adept256 at 7:31 AM on January 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


We have moved from overt racism (including religion, ethnicity, color) to polite forms of discrimination, where utterances that are muted but distinctions remain.
posted by Postroad at 7:38 AM on January 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


As far as "people trust those with similar political leanings more than those with strongly different political leanings", the parties of the two-party system representing strongly different political leanings isn't a constant—in the 1950s political consultants said that a core problem was that Democrats and Republicans were too similar to each other in their political views. We sure fixed that one. Too bad we didn't fix it by moving the stable state of the system to a point where more than two parties are possible...
posted by XMLicious at 7:40 AM on January 9, 2016 [5 favorites]




from tonycpsu's link:
These views aren't just inconsequential preferences, like the ones we might have for one sports team over another or country music vs. hip-hop. In aJanuary 2014 interview with the Morning Call, the author of a study on the predicted death toll in states that failed to expand Medicaid under Obamacare put it this way: "Political decisions have consequences, some of them lethal."
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:09 AM on January 9, 2016 [22 favorites]


Actually, having people dehumanizing each other as members of an out-group is pretty fucked.

It's also important to note that this study is not about people's "beliefs," it's about their partisanship. That means what party they associate with or are percieved to associate with.

So while this study might provide some kind of psychological cover for the acceptability of your tough-guy internet hobby, it's actually pointing to something pretty fucked.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:38 AM on January 9, 2016 [31 favorites]


It's worth noting that Wall Street is scrupulously bipartisan externally and politics is never allowed to interfere with relationships or business internally. Ditto a lot important industries -- telecom, construction, law, real estate, aerospace, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, hospitals, transportation.

Political monoculture is pretty risky. The energy industry is paying the price for being monoculturally Republican. The firearms industry can't be happy they're being boxed in as Republican either. Industries which are monoculturally Democratic haven't seen that yet, but I wouldn't want to be Hollywood asking a President Cruz for some important new copyright protections in a couple of years, or the teachers unions asking for anything.

The glamour side of tech has become overwhelmingly Democrat without meaning to do so ... but is frantically diversifying its lobbying crews and doesn't seem actively discriminatory in senior hiring or funding (most likely because of the intersection at those levels with law, finance and telecom, who know better.)
posted by MattD at 8:38 AM on January 9, 2016 [9 favorites]


"oh it's so great that there are a bunch of dudes in every internet comment section talking about how we should shoot democrats to death, dehumanization is totally fine as long as it's based on ~values~"

like even if you don't buy the "both sides do it" narrative how naive do you have to be to not realize that republicans are the ones with all the fucking guns
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:46 AM on January 9, 2016 [12 favorites]


There's a difference between the fact that in general a healthy polity requires more than one healthy, perceived-as-at-least-somewhat-legimate party in contention for power and the falsehood that one of the two actually existing parties in the actually existing American polity is not deeply, perhaps irretrievably, sick.
posted by PMdixon at 8:48 AM on January 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


one of the two actually existing parties in the actually existing American polity is not deeply, perhaps irretrievably, sick.

according to this members of that "deeply...sick" party are careening towards out-group dehumanization

but that's a good thing, because it makes my twitter hate-boner even bigger and even more justified
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:52 AM on January 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


I mean what could be better than being denied a job because somewhere on the internet you breathed a whisper of what your political affiliation might be

seems like everything is headed in the right direction to me
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:53 AM on January 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


IFDS, SN9 doing yoeman's work in this thread.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:03 AM on January 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


It used to be pretty common to remark that racial hatred was cultivated by elites who themselves didn't care in order to prevent the alliance of closely related working people.

And yet everyone seems to have forgotten that lesson now that hates based on partisan identity is at stake. Elites don't care about partisan identity nearly as much (wonks and bureaucrats are partisan but get along with their opponents quite well).
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:09 AM on January 9, 2016 [10 favorites]


I think political affiliation offers a more useful way of othering than any of the usual suspects - race, religion, sexual preference and gender identification are too binary in that you either are or you are not this thing to be othered, whereas the political enemy could literally be anyone, even someone who wasn't your political enemy five minutes ago.

As the usual suspects (slowly, god so slowly) wane, a new way to keep people from coming together will be needed.
posted by Mooski at 9:11 AM on January 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


There's something to the fact that the first comment in a thread about partisan polarization and political purity alludes to those who are not quite at that stage as "particular noxious tribe of idiots" or "dumbshits."
posted by cheburashka at 9:19 AM on January 9, 2016 [9 favorites]


like even if you don't buy the "both sides do it" narrative how naive do you have to be to not realize that republicans are the ones with all the fucking guns

Oh well sure, they may have the guns, but we've got all the best hashtags.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 9:22 AM on January 9, 2016 [11 favorites]


> I mean what could be better than being denied a job because somewhere on the internet you breathed a whisper of what your political affiliation might be

This already happens. Source: 20 years of employment in KY, 6 of them as a manager involved in hiring decisions, many of those fighting attempts to do just this. There are absolutely no protections against discrimination against political affiliation in the majority of states.

See the chart here for a good list: Employment Discrimination Law in the United States
posted by MysticMCJ at 9:24 AM on January 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Actually, having people dehumanizing each other as members of an out-group is pretty fucked.

Dehumanization is your word. You brought that into the discussion on your own- it's not in the study at all. To distrust somebody is not to dehumanize them. Every post you've made in this thread has been swinging at what you want to see and attack, not on what's actually there. Distrusting somebody because their values are discordant with yours is not killing them, or attacking them, or denying them their rights. You are the one who has brought that up.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:32 AM on January 9, 2016 [24 favorites]


When one party has consciously and relentlessly positioned itself as the part of, by, and for white people for 60 years, it shouldn't be surprising to find so little difference between trustworthiness sorted by race and trustworthiness sorted by political affiliation.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:38 AM on January 9, 2016 [11 favorites]


There are absolutely no protections against discrimination against political affiliation in the majority of states.

So, a serious question: This is fucked, and I think that it should change. But should there be exceptions if the political belief might influence your ability to do the job well?

For example, I do not think that someone who believes that women are naturally less intelligent and motivated should be in any faculty position that might be involved in student support, and I would not as a woman even want such a person as an instructor or advisor, as I would never know that I was being fairly treated.

But this is a political belief. It's not a policy position, but it is the justification for policy positions (or lack of them).

One of the things that is difficult to tackle in discussions of how fucked polarization is, is that some political beliefs are actually terrible and dangerous--it's not just "philosophical differences." This is more obvious if you are a minority in some way.

As I've gotten older, I have gotten more polarized as I have gotten less and less patient and empathetic with people who do not believe that everyone is equal. I can still compartmentalize, and take a pragmatic/polite stance when interacting with such a person, but I no longer really feel obligated to. I feel empowered to say that some political beliefs are simply not acceptable. There are people I believe are good-hearted but wrong, but then there are people I believe are bigots, and I do not think that their beliefs deserve respect. Is my polarization part of the problem?
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:39 AM on January 9, 2016 [23 favorites]


It's all well and good to say "Let's be more understanding and less partisan," but it's really hard to put that into practice. I mean I'm a gay liberal which means that a large fraction of republicans literally want to discriminate against me, making me a second class person, or worse. How exactly am I supposed to sympathize with that point of view?
posted by LastOfHisKind at 9:40 AM on January 9, 2016 [15 favorites]


There are absolutely no protections against discrimination against political affiliation in the majority of states.

So, a serious question: This is fucked, and I think that it should change. But should there be exceptions if the political belief might influence your ability to do the job well?


Sure, just like you can legally discriminate against people whose disabilities influence their ability to do the job well if a reasonable accommodation can't be made. No one's seriously suggesting any anti-political-discrimination law that would require the Catholic Church to ordain lesbian priests, or that every legislator's staff must be 1/2 Republican and 1/2 Democrat.
posted by Etrigan at 9:47 AM on January 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Kutsuwamushi: Deciding not to hire someone because they have a specific stated belief that is in conflict with their ability to perform the job fairly, or because they have a particular discrimination themselves agains a presently protected class - both of which I believe would be applicable to your hypothetical candidate - is a very different thing than deciding not to hire them because they might be playing for the "wrong" political team. What you brought up is not discrimination.

What I had witnessed - in practice - was "I dunno, that guy seems like kind of a liberal" or similar delivered in a coded manner - Sometimes very serious, sometimes half joking, irregardless of how someone presented themselves or if their political beliefs actually made it into the interview or not. Could be as simple as a bumper sticker.
posted by MysticMCJ at 9:49 AM on January 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Similarly, as a professional woman, I'm not in a super huge hurry to extend olive branches to people who would like to pass laws making it impossible for me to to be anything but barefoot and pregnant in a kitchen. Sorry not sorry.

One party wants to take away several human rights, as part of its platform. I'm okay with thinking that people who agree with that have bad opinions and should feel bad.
posted by soren_lorensen at 9:49 AM on January 9, 2016 [41 favorites]


Dehumanization is your word. You brought that into the discussion on your own- it's not in the study at all. To distrust somebody is not to dehumanize them.

The word "values" isn't in the study either. Nor is "worldview" or "belief."

In fact, the study says:
More generally, our results provide further support for the view that party identification in the United States is more of an affective than instrumental or ideological bond. This “primal” view of partisanship was first documented in The American Voter (Campbell et al. 1960) and has since been reinforced by considerable work on the psychology of partisan identity (see Green, Palmquist, and Schickler 2004; Huddy, Mason, and Aarøe 2010) and by corroborating evidence demonstrating that partisans are poorly informed about the policy positions advocated by party elites (Bennett 2003; Delli Carpini and Keeter 1996).
So as long as we're really hewing to the exact language in the study, your argument is way more fucked than mine is (which treats dehumanization as a natural outgrowth of outgroup animus, and one we've seen over and over and over again).
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:53 AM on January 9, 2016 [8 favorites]


Oh, and this wasn't the exclusive practice of one political party. I've certainly heard people referred to as "too conservative" or similar.

One clever trick I've seen is to make reference to politics or similar as a coded way of discriminating against someone for being part of a protected class without actually mentioning the class.

Discrimination is very very rampant - no matter what protections we have put in place, they can be worked around in the vast majority of states - especially hire/fire at will.
posted by MysticMCJ at 9:55 AM on January 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


One party wants to take away several human rights, as part of its platform. I'm okay with thinking that people who agree with that have bad opinions and should feel bad.

well are you cheering for the fact that they think you have bad opinions and should feel bad? because that is what we are talking about. consider how that works out for people, generally.

also so that I don't end up as the target of said out-group animus, I'm to the left of the democratic party on almost every issue
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:55 AM on January 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


Only halfway through the document and I'm disturbed. Having read something I already had an intuitive awareness of, I guess I ought not to be surprised. This study implies an ever-widening divide in our politics, but at a level that can't be remedied by discussion. To my mind it means that the fault, if fault can actually be determined, rests with both sides of the divide. Even here on MeFi the hyperbole runs rampant, with vitriol soaked comments. It's easy enough to mawk the low-hanging fruit--Donald Trump--but maybe it's not useful to treat all "those on the other side" as cartoons.

Anyhow, it's hard to claim the high ground once you discover that your opinions are empowered by revulsion. We don't have the option of making all the liberals live on one side of a wall, with the conservatives on the other. If this issue is as palpable as the study (so far as I've read) seems to indicate, then the logical form of government for us is not a democratic republic, but some sort of authoritarianism under which Big Brother is authorized to monitor our thoughts and weed out the ungood among us. How much better would we be if we invented a "they" to be the outgroup, which we hate, rather than weird uncle Herman, who collects 30-round magazines for his M-16 and has built a ten-room bunker under his back yard. At least we would at least all be in the same handbasket.

I apologize for jumping into the mix half-baked, as it were, and I'll finish the document when I get back home after my gig.
posted by mule98J at 9:56 AM on January 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


1. The notion that universities are bastions of lefty thought is sheer nonsense. Liberals are vocal and are found in the Humanities, the Arts, the Social Sciences..Less vocal, though, conservatives are in P.E., nursing, Business Ad, many of the sciences, and of course the Trustees and Administration.

2.It should be noted that the nation as it evolves moves to embrace that which some years previously would be viewed as social norms not to be changed, ie, gay marriage, women voting, abortion, transgender rights, integration, divorce, and on and on....though liberals may complain and conservatives ardently try to stop this drift, it has gone on and on over the years. For a quick example of this change, view bathing suits worn by both men and women since 1900
posted by Postroad at 10:02 AM on January 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


(Also the term of art in the US for "we are allowed to discriminate on what would otherwise be a protected status" is "Bona Fide Occupational Qualification/BFOQ")
posted by PMdixon at 10:05 AM on January 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


In the United States, universities have moved rapidly left since 1990, when the left-right ratio of professors across all departments was less than two to one.

Horse shit. The growth of the far right wing has just shifted the dividing line.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:05 AM on January 9, 2016 [18 favorites]


He also predicts that as Democrats come to dominate higher education, bipartisan support for public universities, state-funded research, and academic freedom will wane.

"Will" wane?!
posted by Gelatin at 10:21 AM on January 9, 2016 [17 favorites]


Sure, just like you can legally discriminate against people whose disabilities influence their ability to do the job well if a reasonable accommodation can't be made

The hypothetical scenario I mentioned wasn't an extreme case; it was rather run-of-the-mill. There are many people in positions of power over women who believe that there is no significant discrimination against them, and that their lack of representation is due to women being naturally less apt.

I left acts of discrimination from the scenario because that would be actionable if it could be proved--and stuck to the belief itself, which is not (c.f. Larry Summers for a complicated example). The whole issue is that some political beliefs are prejudiced and shouldn't be protected (IMO), and it's unlikely that all of them would successfully be made exceptions for any protections instituted.

So while we might get protections against being fired/not-hired for being too socialist or whatever, we might also get protections against being fired/not-hired because we believe women's lack of attainment in the sciences is due to a natural difference in math ability.

Any process of instituting such protections would be deeply politicized, and TBH I think whether the outcome was on the whole positive would depend a lot on the sector, company, etc.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:37 AM on January 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Predicting that conservatives will hate, fear, and attack higher education is like predicting that if things keep going the way they are, computers might start to get smaller, faster, and cheaper.

Indeed. Funding tax cuts with cuts to public universities has been going on at least since I attended college in the 1980s (although to be fair, in Kentucky it was a pro-business Democrat who led that particular charge).
posted by Gelatin at 10:39 AM on January 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Re: defunding public higher education, it did start in the 1980s. It also has some bipartisan appeal. For example, my state, the very blue Vermont, has some of the lowest funding levels for public colleges and universities.

Christopher Newfield’s Unmaking the Public University: The Forty-Year Assault on the Middle Class (Harvard University Press, 2011) is a decent book on the subject.
posted by doctornemo at 10:46 AM on January 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


I'm from Louisiana, and I now live in Maryland. It's heartbreaking to see what Bobby Jindal and his cronies have done to the state, and even more so to see what's been done to the state universities over the last 25 years. Maryland has plenty of its own problems, but at least there is general (but not universal) agreement that it's a good thing that we have strong academic institutions like the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins. It's going to be interesting, to me, to watch how John Bel Edwards, the new Democrat governor of Louisiana, moves forward. He appointed one of his opponents, Jay Dardenne (R), head of the Division of Administration. Edwards is far too conservative for my taste, but he's reaching out across ideological lines because he realizes that if he's to be an effective governor he's going to have to get things done with Republican help. Here in Maryland, we have a Tea Party governor who has, so far, been completely ineffective because he refuses to work with the Democrats, who overwhelmingly control the State House. Now, Maryland isn't in the economic place that Louisiana is, so maybe there's no feeling that he needs to compromise. Still, I find the two situations to be fascinating. I'm far to the left of the Democratic Party, but ultimately I want political leadership that can accomplish something. That means a willingness to work with the opposition to find common ground. There's been alarmingly little of that since the Bush II administration.
posted by wintermind at 10:49 AM on January 9, 2016


well are you cheering for the fact that they think you have bad opinions and should fee bad? because that is what we are talking about. consider how that works out for people, generally.

I don't know what this is supposed to mean. How does it work out? Depends entirely on who is calling who "bad people with bad opinions", I reckon. If we're actually reaching the point where we're focusing on the political beliefs (and separating this from partisanship is a bit dishonest - being in a party isn't being in an arbitrarily chosen sports team; parties have platforms of political beliefs) as opposed to their race, gender, or ethnicity ... that is a net positive. It's a reaction to the substance of what people believe and do as opposed to their genetic makeup. Good! That's what oughta be the case.

It seems like a weird, almost centrist idea to conclude that thinking people are bad because of their political beliefs is unreasonable. Like all political ideas are the same, and we're just too caught up in our own lockstep groupthink to see the "truth" or something. Fuck that. That's a dangerous false equivalence. I am totally fine with saying that someone who believes in controlling what women do with their own bodies, who believes Muslims should wear identifying badges, the workers should have their right to negotiate further restricted and such is a bad person with bad ideas. We're not in competing anime fandoms here; we're talking policies that hold sway over people's lives.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 11:26 AM on January 9, 2016 [37 favorites]


Racism has been part of the Unofficial but True Republican Platform ever since Nixon's Southern Strategy helped him win the White House in 1968. Before that, it was part of the Unofficial but True Democratic Platform until Johnson got fully behind the Civil Rights Movement. Most Republicans that are not Cis White Males are so for the specific purpose of getting "a leg up" on others like them based on their "political pals". That and the fact that while the Democrats are a deeply corrupt institution (among so many today), the Republican Party should qualify for being broken up under RICO laws for its institutional mobsterism, makes my respect for people who identify as Republicans (even using the qualifier "Moderate") only a step above the Chinese Communist Party and Saudi Royal Family (who also have "Moderates" but just don't let them speak publicly because they don't need to).

If that is finally being recognized more widely, good.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:45 AM on January 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


Too bad we didn't fix it by moving the stable state of the system to a point where more than two parties are possible...

Not with FPTP.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:47 AM on January 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


The notion that universities are bastions of lefty thought is sheer nonsense. Liberals are vocal and are found in the Humanities, the Arts, the Social Sciences..Less vocal, though, conservatives are in P.E., nursing, Business Ad, many of the sciences, and of course the Trustees and Administration.

Liberal professor here.

I'm not sure what exactly is required for something to be a bastion of lefty thought. But it is very clear from numerous surveys over the last decade (and more) that academics are generally much more politically liberal than is the general public. And it is quite likely that the percentage of academics who are politically liberal is increasing. It is true that engineering and business schools are less liberal than departments in the humanities, arts, and social sciences. But according to a 2005 survey, the split in engineering and business schools is close to 50/50, which suggests that engineering and business schools aren't much different than the wider population and only appear to be conservative by contrast with their liberal colleagues. (Note as well that the 2005 survey was based on 1999 data -- before the large shift to the left noted in the 2012 IHE article. So it could well be the case that even engineering and business schools skew left today.) Finally, with respect to scientists generally, there is a now pretty well-known Pew survey from 2009, which found (among other fascinating things) that only 6% of scientists (as compared with 23% of the public) were Republicans and only 9% (as compared with 37% of the public) self-identified as conservative. Instead, 52% of scientists identified as liberal (compared with only 20% of the public)! The Pew survey of scientists was of members of the AAAS. I couldn't find -- but would like to know -- what percentage of AAAS members are academics, as opposed to being scientists employed by private industry.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 11:55 AM on January 9, 2016 [16 favorites]


well are you cheering for the fact that they think you have bad opinions and should feel bad? because that is what we are talking about. consider how that works out for people, generally.

Doing nothing about people who want to take away our rights leads to situations like Mormons buying Prop 8 in another state. If your views are to the left of the Democratic Party, as you claim, consider how that worked out for same-sex couples who had their rights violated. It took years to get that overturned, and shit-kicking yahoos like Roy Moore are still fighting the rule of law. Are we supposed to sit quiet and think-say-do nothing while these guys systematically violate our rights? What is your proposal?
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:04 PM on January 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


Doing nothing about people who want to take away our rights

That is not remotely what ifdssn9 is doing here. For one thing, "doing nothing" and "thinking that people who agree with that have bad opinions and should feel bad" aren't necessarily any different. What ifdssn9 is saying is, as stated, "having people dehumanizing each other as members of an out-group is pretty fucked." Even if the other side did it first.
posted by Etrigan at 12:10 PM on January 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


Seriously. You are not changing the motherfucking world by refusing to have little Jimmy play with your Anna because his mom is a Republican. Nobody, but nobody, is saying you can't work with all your heart and mind for your political ideals to achieve dominance. We're just saying it would be nice if you weren't actively a shit to people who disagreed with you and trying to get them fired from their jobs.
posted by corb at 12:18 PM on January 9, 2016 [11 favorites]


trying to get them fired from their jobs

The irony being that these are the same people who go around and get LGBT people fired, refused services, evicted from their homes, beaten, or murdered, and so on. And we are supposed to say nothing bad about what these people do. Incredible.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:25 PM on January 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


Is your problem with them trying to get LGBT people fired that you disagree with people being fired for things about themselves that don't impact their work? Because if so, that principle should also extend to this.
posted by corb at 12:28 PM on January 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


Also, no, your average modern Republican is not trying to get LGBT folk beaten and murdered and it is an example of the kind of visceral hate we are talking about here that you would try to express otherwise.
posted by corb at 12:29 PM on January 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


Can we use his article as a guide for understanding the paper, and not focus on Johnathan Haidt himself?

Okay, then let's focus on the lead author of the article, who is a fellow at the Hoover Institute along with colleagues George Shultz, Condoleezza Rice, Michael Boskin, Edwin Meese, John Cochrane, Henry Kissinger, Thomas Sowell and Pete Wilson.

This is traditional "both sides do it" revisionism.
posted by JackFlash at 12:34 PM on January 9, 2016 [15 favorites]


Republicans are, though, pushing for the very things I listed. Distancing yourself or your kids from such people is totally reasonable, as far as I'm concerned. This is a reactionary party actively spewing hate and fomenting policies that have demonstrable real-life consequences for real human beings, but the problem is leftists are mean to them? Whatever. This is the kind of false equivalence that helps them. Visceral hate? Putting not letting your kids play with the children of Republicans (and where that came from I have no idea) in even the same ballpark as racist voter ID laws and abortion prohibition is ludicrous.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 12:39 PM on January 9, 2016 [21 favorites]


The problem with polarization is it severely restricts my choices. I liked supporting a liberal Dem, and could live with voting for a moderate Dem or liberal Rep or hold my nose and vote for a moderate Rep. And I could get along with people that felt at home in those 4 wings.
posted by ridgerunner at 12:40 PM on January 9, 2016


At a certain point all this moral equivalence bullshit breaks down. The Montgomery Bus Boycott is not the same as MRAs boycotting Star Wars. A gay person fired for being gay is not equivalent to a bigot being fired for their bigotry. Politics isn't just "a difference of opinion". Politics have actual literal consequences in the real world.
posted by kmz at 12:41 PM on January 9, 2016 [31 favorites]


The problem with polarization is it severely restricts my choices.

Yes, but that's the fault of the system, not of people who aren't being sufficiently nice to people with different political beliefs. You go to ideological war with the two party, first-past-the-post system you have, not the multi-party, preferential voting system you might wish to have.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:44 PM on January 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


The problem with polarization is it severely restricts my choices.

This I totally agree with, in the sense that I think a two-party system is not a good idea. The multiparty system has its share of flaws, yes, but there can be at least a more nuanced spectrum of policies to choose from and slightly better representation as a result.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 12:45 PM on January 9, 2016


Is there some line that people have to cross before we can be "actively a shit" to somebody? Donated to Prop 8? Breitbart devotee? John Bircher? Literal Donald Trump? Or are we supposed to be so sainted that we're supposed to go on picnics with David Duke and Mike Huckabee?
posted by kmz at 12:46 PM on January 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


Re: defunding public higher education, it did start in the 1980s. It also has some bipartisan appeal. For example, my state, the very blue Vermont, has some of the lowest funding levels for public colleges and universities.

It looks a little more complicated than that. Public funding has been steadily increasing since Reagan's second term.
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:48 PM on January 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


So the response to "politics is polarizing" is literally "Oh, so now I have to go on picnics with people with opinions I dislike?!?"

Way to support nuance there, people.
posted by Etrigan at 12:49 PM on January 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


"Opinions I dislike":
- The prequels aren't that bad
- Mushrooms are yucky
- New York hot dogs are better than Chicago hot dogs

Opinions which have serious-ass real world consequences:
- Gay marriage should be outlawed
- Women don't have the right to choose
- Minimum wage is just fine, if not too high already
posted by kmz at 1:03 PM on January 9, 2016 [19 favorites]


You go to ideological war with the two party, first-past-the-post system you have,

Yep. I never thought I'd see the end of the empire, but between the stupidity of hard right, the economic viciousness of moderate Rep/corporate Dems and the stress of climate change it could happen faster than it did to the Brits or Spanish.
posted by ridgerunner at 1:06 PM on January 9, 2016


No one is telling you that you have to go on picnics with people with opinions that have serious-ass real world consequences either, kmz. Honest. That is not remotely what anyone in this thread or anywhere else is saying. Portraying it as such is part of the exact issue that this FPP is about. Is it as bad as other political opinions? No, of course not. But acting like anyone here is telling you that you have to rent a vacation cabin with David Duke is the very definition of a straw man.

Yes, I know other bad people use straw men too. Be better than them.
posted by Etrigan at 1:11 PM on January 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


OK, yeah the picnic thing was a bit of unwarranted hyperbole, but I guess I'm just not sure on how equanimous we're supposed to be to people who literally want to legislate against our basic rights.
posted by kmz at 1:23 PM on January 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


...I'm just not sure on how equanimous we're supposed to be to people who literally want to legislate against our basic rights.

Could you join them in a temporary collation to fix Citizens United?
posted by ridgerunner at 1:39 PM on January 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


We can (and should) disagree on things and protest and fight for our ideals all we want, but that doesn't change the fact that we should try our hardest to treat everyone we meet with courtesy, respect and some compassion. Even if they treat you horribly. Falling to their level doesn't help your cause.
posted by downtohisturtles at 1:47 PM on January 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


I thought the Edge question response about complete head transplants was edgier.
posted by bukvich at 1:51 PM on January 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


You go to ideological war with the two party, first-past-the-post system you have,

If the whole point of the system is simply continuous "war", all political impetus in society funneled back into itself in a perpetual enterprise of Sisyphean trench warfare, any victory you get is a hollow one. The front may move back and forth but the point is for it to remain relatively stable and predictable for the ease of the users of the system. In this century the arc of the moral universe bends toward a panopticon surveillance state that assassinates its own citizens with flying robots and/or police officers, plus maybe a few crumbs of not treating non-white-cis-het-males completely unconscionably. Crumbs like that are worth paying any price and making any effort of course, but that's what the system depends on.

(Just finished watching "The Waldo Moment" episode of Black Mirror, curled up in a fetal position on the floor due to cognitive resonance between it and the Trump campaign.)
posted by XMLicious at 2:06 PM on January 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


I don't know what this is supposed to mean. How does it work out? Depends entirely on who is calling who "bad people with bad opinions", I reckon. If we're actually reaching the point where we're focusing on the political beliefs (and separating this from partisanship is a bit dishonest - being in a party isn't being in an arbitrarily chosen sports team; parties have platforms of political beliefs) as opposed to their race, gender, or ethnicity ... that is a net positive. It's a reaction to the substance of what people believe and do as opposed to their genetic makeup. Good! That's what oughta be the case.

It seems like a weird, almost centrist idea to conclude that thinking people are bad because of their political beliefs is unreasonable. Like all political ideas are the same, and we're just too caught up in our own lockstep groupthink to see the "truth" or something. Fuck that. That's a dangerous false equivalence. I am totally fine with saying that someone who believes in controlling what women do with their own bodies, who believes Muslims should wear identifying badges, the workers should have their right to negotiate further restricted and such is a bad person with bad ideas. We're not in competing anime fandoms here; we're talking policies that hold sway over people's lives.


ARRRGH IT'S NOT JUST PEOPLE WHO AGREE WITH YOU WHO ARE DOING THIS ARRRGHHHHHH FOREVER
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:20 PM on January 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


If the whole point of the system is simply continuous "war", all political impetus in society funneled back into itself in a perpetual enterprise of Sisyphean trench warfare, any victory you get is a hollow one.

Way to seize on a word I only used ironically because it was in the original Rumsfeld quote for the purposes of grinding your hobby axe.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:29 PM on January 9, 2016


Even if they treat you horribly. Falling to their level doesn't help your cause.

Two problems with this. Calling reactionaries bad names and keeping your kids away from them is not "falling to their level". Falling to their level would be actively trying to legislate control over their bodies or bar them from civil institutions based on their sexual orientation. Second, the validity of the respectability politics strategy isn't all that clear. There's a time and place for all kinds of strategies for making last change, and telling the oppressed they shouldn't express their anger and must always be courteous and respectful is what isn't helping. We keep hearing this scolding to play nice with the people actively harming us for vague reasons about "helping our cause". If the tone and language of someone expressing their grievances is what prevents so-called allies from helping, then they're not really allies to begin with.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 2:29 PM on January 9, 2016 [12 favorites]


One of the more interesting things about this conversation is the general reaction here to, say, vegetarianism or veganism. I can only imagine the reaction if vegans refused to let their kids play with people whose parents ate meat.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:46 PM on January 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


Or let me hew even more closely to the original article, and say I can only imagine the reaction if vegans refused to let their kids play with people whose parents seemed like they ate meat.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:48 PM on January 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


This paper purports to be surprised that political affiliation is even more polarizing than race, gender and religion.

However, this is a completely trivial and expected result. Republicanism today has come to embrace the worst of racism, sexism and religious extremism all rolled up in one so of course Republicanism is viewed as even more repulsive than any one of those loathsome characteristics individually.
posted by JackFlash at 2:54 PM on January 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


I am a little weirded out by the idea of refusing to let your kids play with almost anyone on the grounds that their parents are terrible people, barring actual danger to your kids. I mean, my childhood would have been a lot sadder if my parents had kept me away from kids who had terrible, terrible parents. It turns out that some great people have parents who are basically monsters!
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:55 PM on January 9, 2016 [11 favorites]


This paper purports to be surprised that political affiliation is even more polarizing than race, gender and religion.

However, this is a completely trivial and expected result.


Can we not descend into 'science proves the obvious!'? The point is not to guess, its to know.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 2:56 PM on January 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm a little surprised that IFDSSN9 is nearly alone in expressing any sadness that Americans are becoming more automatically hostile toward members of the other party. When I posted this article, I expected more an atmosphere of general lamentation.

More generally, our results provide further support for the view that party identification in the United States is more of an affective than instrumental or ideological bond. This “primal” view of partisanship was first documented in The American Voter (Campbell et al. 1960) and has since been reinforced by considerable work on the psychology of partisan identity (see Green, Palmquist, and Schickler 2004; Huddy, Mason, and Aarøe 2010) and by corroborating evidence demonstrating that partisans are poorly informed about the policy positions advocated by party elites (Bennett 2003; Delli Carpini and Keeter 1996).

A lot of people in this thread are writing as if every voter has subscribes wholeheartedly to his party's full platform, whereas my experience is more that most people don't even know their parties' full platforms, much less how that platform is being implemented, in terms of sponsorships and votes and back-room advocacy.
posted by d. z. wang at 2:58 PM on January 9, 2016 [9 favorites]


I can only imagine the reaction if vegans refused to let their kids play with people whose parents seemed like they ate meat.

Your last three or four comments have left me very confused. There are lots of things in the comment I quoted that I don't understand. But start with this ... Your hypothetical scenario seems okay to me (not a perfect world but not too terrible, either). What is supposed to be the problem?
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 2:59 PM on January 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Well, to put your mind at ease, AAC, it was corb who came in here with that example, apropos of nothing. It's not my personal policy with my child - way too many conservatives here for it to be practical. But since this non-practice got tossed in here, that's why I used it as a point of comparison between two types of "bad behavior" from both sides.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 3:01 PM on January 9, 2016


Has anyone actually claimed they don't let their kids play with conservatives' kids, or is that a straw man to show how liberals are just as bad as conservatives?
posted by dirigibleman at 3:04 PM on January 9, 2016 [20 favorites]


Way to seize on a word I only used ironically because it was in the original Rumsfeld quote for the purposes of grinding your hobby axe.

I thought I was directly disagreeing with the sentiment expressed in your comment about the relative importance of improving the system versus advancing ideology—which you appeared to be analogizing to armies and war respectively—but maybe I misunderstood you? Is the irony that you meant the opposite of the Rumsfeld quote because he proved to be so disastrously wrong and unprepared for Iraq, and hence you actually agree that it's a fatal mistake to perpetually postpone fixes to fundamental problems of our democracy to wage the ideological contest of the moment?

If so then my bad, I'm dumb.
posted by XMLicious at 3:07 PM on January 9, 2016


Hmm, d.z. wang. I actually don't put much stock in formal political affiliation, despite being a pretty strongly partisan Democrat. Where I live, you can't tell much at all from the party on someone's voter registration card. For one thing, fully a third of the voters in my state register no-party, and a lot of them have pretty strong feelings about not having a political affiliation. (And interestingly, they tend not to be swing voters. Many of them consistently vote for one or the other party. They just don't want to have a party identity. I find this whole phenomenon fascinating.) There also are a fair number of people who identify as Republicans but consistently vote for Democrats because they feel like the Republican party has deserted them or vice versa. And I have a fair number of friends who won't register Democrat because they feel the Democrats are too far to the right for them. So I can't imagine choosing my friends based on whether they were Democrats or Republicans. That makes no sense to me.

On the other hand, I would have a really hard time being best buddies with someone who thought that Donald Trump would make a great president, no matter how that person identified politically. And actually, apparently a lot of Trump supporters are people who identify as Democrats but typically vote for Republicans. It's not that I don't make judgements. It's just that my judgments are a little more fine-grained than pure partisan affiliation.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:08 PM on January 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


Has anyone actually claimed they don't let their kids play with conservatives' kids, or is that a straw man to show how liberals are just as bad as conservatives?

No. And also remember that this is just one study that consists of a number of experiments of differing levels of external validity.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 3:08 PM on January 9, 2016


Has anyone actually claimed they don't let their kids play with conservatives' kids, or is that a straw man to show how liberals are just as bad as conservatives?

The latter. But a revealing one in terms of what is imagined as "just as bad" as GOP policy.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 3:14 PM on January 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


Can we not descend into 'science proves the obvious!'?

This so-called science from the Hoover Institute attempts to prove that we are beyond racism and sexism and religious extremism. "It's just that everyone is so darned partisan. Can't we all just get along?"

When in fact, the divisions are based on substantive issues like racism and sexism and religious extremism and partisanship is how you take sides since the Republican party has aligned itself with all of those extreme positions.
posted by JackFlash at 3:46 PM on January 9, 2016 [8 favorites]


Has anyone actually claimed they don't let their kids play with conservatives' kids, or is that a straw man to show how liberals are just as bad as conservatives?

It's a straw man, sure, but dumb noise of that sort lets guilty conservatives feel better about taking other people's rights away.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 3:49 PM on January 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


I can only imagine the reaction if vegans refused to let their kids play with people whose parents ate meat.

Considering how people treat the views of vegans, and how other adults frequently feel as if they have the right to step in with regards to the parenting of the children of people whom they think are not doing an adequate job - I'd actually be pretty understanding of their attitude.
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:50 PM on January 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


This so-called science from the Hoover Institute attempts to prove that we are beyond racism and sexism and religious extremism.

Oh god. How embarassing.

1) This isn't from the Hoover Institute.

2) One of the authors has a courtesy appointment at the Hoover Institute, but his primary position is being the Harry and Norman Chandler Professor of Communication in the Department of Political Science at Stanford University.

3) It attempts to prove nothing, only provide evidence in support of a hypothesis. This is how social science works and knowing that may help you from embarassing yourself in the future.

4) As an aside, its published in the AJPS, which currently has the most rigorous replication and data transparency policy of any political science journal. Its an extraordinarily high-quality and rigorous journal, and for that reason is generally regarded as the second best journal in the discipline.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 3:55 PM on January 9, 2016 [8 favorites]


Sometimes I have a hard time deciding what's the worst part about being on the left in America.

Is it that I don't have any meaningful (read: ability to greenlight a progressive policy with teeth and make it happen) representation in the legislative and executive branches of the federal government and government of my state (Texas)?

Or is it the fact that despite this lack of power, I'm constantly scolded and told that while both sides are equally bad, my side is the one that bears the brunt of responsibility for discord in American political discourse because I'm not doing enough to build bridges.

I recall that in the aftermath of the 2011 Tuscon shooting that targeted Rep Gifford and left 6 people dead, there was no shortage of people from across the political spectrum claiming that heated rhetoric from both sides created the environment that led to the attack. I was so happy when I saw people on the left standing up and saying, "No, there is one side that uses gun sights in their political ads, loves to show its politicians posing and swaggering with guns, and favors martial, aggressive terms in its rhetoric when discussing its political opponents." I don't recall many centrists or conservatives calling out the R side of the aisle for this.

Same thing with regard to LGBT issues, racial issues, socioeconomic issues, etc: when people perceived to be on the left without any real power to bring about change get heated in their rhetoric about Republicans who are rolling back or attempting to roll back civil rights, gains we've made for LGBT people, women's reproductive rights, and other things, this is said to be just as bad as Republican state legislators, Republican governors, Republican members of Congress and conservative Supreme Court justices saying problematic things about various groups, as if the Republicans and conservatives are so noble and wise that we can trust that their utterances are not reflected in the political decisions they make, but we need to make sure to point out how unfair and wrong the left is, because that's the real problem with America today.

I guess I'd feel better if I saw evidence that the scolders were just as active on redstate, Free Republic, Breitbart, and the comments sections of newspapers and news channels as they are on sites like MeFi, Daily Kos and other sites that are left-leaning or perceived to be left-leaning, reminding conservatives that they need to tone down their language and try harder to reach across the aisle. But I feel like I've never seen any indications that this is the case.
posted by lord_wolf at 4:11 PM on January 9, 2016 [34 favorites]


So, in their general discussion section, the authors write the following (quoted above by d. z. wang):
More generally, our results provide further support for the view that party identification in the United States is more of an affective than instrumental or ideological bond.
But I'm not seeing how their studies do this. Suppose we accept that we are becoming more affectively polarized and that hostile feelings towards members of the opposing party are automatic and so on. How does that support that party identification is more of an affective bond than it is an instrumental or ideological bond? And specifically, how do they rule out what seems to me to be a perfectly plausible reverse-causation story: namely, that party affiliation is initially an instrumental bond based on ideology, voting, and policies, and then affect follows along? Am I missing something or are they just over-selling and/or speculating in the discussion section?
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 4:19 PM on January 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


Has anyone actually claimed they don't let their kids play with conservatives' kids, or is that a straw man to show how liberals are just as bad as conservatives?

It was based on some stuff upthread where people were justifying avoiding all socializing with conservatives on the grounds that they're terrible people anyway and basically murdering people. I took an example of normative socialization - the way that you'd normally encounter people of different political stripes and have to get along and eventually become friends anyway - and threw it in. The normal thing up until about 20 years ago was to have a lot of friends of various political stripes, and given the "omg what if I had to have to have a picnic with a conservative" that actually got expressed here, I don't think it's a bridge too far.
posted by corb at 4:43 PM on January 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


Jonathan Livengood, I think the argument goes like this:

1. Party id is either ideological, instrumental, or affective.

2. Party id is not ideological because party id is not a good guide to ideology (see data on ideological consistency.)

3. Party id is not instrumental because we see prejudice and bias in non-instrumental contexts, and because we see evidence of failure to take up instrumental bipartisan and cross-cutting opportunities.

4. Party id must therefore be affective. This alone explains implicit bias measures and punitive action in non-political contexts like denying high school seniors scholarships based on perceived political affiliation.

That is, the affective bond isn't necessarily the first, causal part, but it is the strongest part of the bond.

Can we just take a moment to think about the idea that it's wise to discriminate in scholarship selections against high school seniors for their perceived political beliefs? Like kids don't change their minds, especially in college.....
posted by anotherpanacea at 4:45 PM on January 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Also people change their mind on issues not infrequently, but people almost never change their party ID.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 4:50 PM on January 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


But their paper specifically (as opposed to the literature in general) doesn't have any data on ideological consistency or on the instrumental value that people place on party affiliation ... does it? Serious question: As I read it, they have four studies, which go to establish, respectively: (1) that partisans are implicitly biased in favor of co-partisans, (2) that the bias established in (1) appears in tasks like choosing between candidates for scholarships and can be strong enough to override objective considerations of merit, (3) that the bias established in (1) appears in tasks like the dictator game with small stakes, and (4) that the bias established in (1) factors into an in-group bonus component and an out-group penalty component, both of which are sizable.

None of that seems to have anything to do with either ideological consistency or instrumental value of party affiliation. Right?

On reflection, I'm not sure I know what an instrumental context is. Or what that has to do with whether people think there is instrumental value in identifying with one party or another. (Am I just misunderstanding what "instrumental" means here?) Are some of the studies supposed to be instrumental and some non-instrumental contexts? Which are the non-instrumental contexts? And why?

So ... I like your argument. But I'm not sure that they establish any of the premisses in it. They don't establish (1). They don't argue for it. As far as I can tell, they don't even mention anything like it. They don't establish (2). At best, they point to other studies that do. Maybe they establish (3)? I'm not seeing how, but if their results do show that bias appears in non-instrumental contexts, then I suppose they provide some evidence for it. Not evidence for all of the content of (3), since your (3) includes a bit at the end about what we don't see in some situations that I take it they did not study. (Again, did I just miss something? It doesn't look to me like they conducted any studies that have anything to do with instrumental bipartisan-ship or cross-cutting opportunities, whatever those are.) And (4) appears to be a conclusion derived by disjunctive syllogism and so not supported directly by their studies at all.

I thought what they actually do is to establish rather more directly--via implicit bias tasks--that there is affective polarization. And I'm granting that they succeed in doing so. What I can't understand is how the existence of affective polarization is evidence that the bond of political party affiliation is more about affect than it is about instrumentalism or ideology.

I agree that affective polarization is problematic, especially in the scholarship study. And their results strike me as interesting. But I still don't see how their experimental work establishes anything about the relative importance of ideology, instrumental considerations, and affect.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 5:41 PM on January 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


All I know is it's lovely to prepare a meal for someone and then be told by them at the dinner table that you're on the wrong side and will be first up against the wall for not wanting to, just for example, "kill all the sand n*****s."
posted by ob1quixote at 6:30 PM on January 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


It's worth noting that Wall Street is scrupulously bipartisan externally and politics is never allowed to interfere with relationships or business internally. Ditto a lot important industries -- telecom, construction, law, real estate, aerospace, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, hospitals, transportation.

To the extent this is true, and I think it is in a lot of ways, isn't it the case because all of the above are primarily concerned with actually getting things done? While in politics, if we are honest, the concern is who subjugates whom, seemingly without any real concern for the goal of actually getting things done? I mean, this might be kind of simple minded, but it might go toward explaining why there is such interest in issues of controlling who gets into the country, who controls whose body, who gets medical care, public help, and for that matter who gets to shoot whom? And of course what color of people get to hold high office in this country?...
posted by anguspodgorny at 6:51 PM on January 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also people change their mind on issues not infrequently, but people almost never change their party ID.

It's easy to overstate this, though, and most people probably know someone who's done so. I don't have actual numbers handy to run, but my impressionistic sense is that "people almost never change their party ID" is at the level of "people almost never are gay" or "Americans are almost never of Chinese ancestry." True enough insofar as heterosexuals and non-Chinese-ancestried people are overwhelming majorities, but still.

On reflection, I'm not sure I know what an instrumental context is.

Instrumental partisanship is roughly party id that's based on the performance of the parties, usually in a way that allows "performance" to individually vary depending on the respondent's preferences. People identify with the party under whose presidents stuff happened that they liked.

But their paper specifically (as opposed to the literature in general) doesn't have any data on ideological consistency or on the instrumental value that people place on party affiliation ... does it?

No. But it's not like this is a central piece of their paper; it's a throwaway sentence in their conclusions. It's certainly fair to say that they shouldn't make untested claims that aren't cited heavily, but conclusions sections in polisci are pretty commonly home to untested bullshit.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:02 PM on January 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


This paper presents almost no evidence that partisan ID is affective or affiliational rather than ideological. Most of the political science evidence -- as well as what we can see in front of our own noses -- is that party ID has gotten much more aligned with ideology in the last couple decades, though they had always been well correlated. Most of the terms they use here -- "discrimination," "intrusion," "bias," "prejudice," "favoritism," etc, beg the question: they assume that affective preference for co-partisans and against anti-partisans is due to irrational emotion and in-group/out-group affiliation. But there is no evidence of that here. An equally plausible explanation -- and I would argue the baseline hypothesis, since it is consistent with how people actually describe themselves -- is that people prefer to favor the just and disfavor the unjust, and party ID is a very good measure of that these days.

1) So in study 1, their use of "discrimination" is tendentious, since it rests upon a past usage that has almost always connoted unjust discrimination, whereas in this case such discrimination may of course be just (by being based on a theory of justice). Even using "in-group" and "out-group" here begs the question, since it presumes the decisions are based on group affiliation rather than that the group affiliation (to the degree it exists as its own thing) is due to political judgments.

2) In the second study, using "intrusion" to describe the role of politics for the scholarship experiment begs the question. It is not at all clear to me at least that, in a "deadlocked" scholarship (footnote 6), one should never use any notion of justice in adjudicating an otherwise deadlocked decision about something as broad as a "scholarship" (which often include matters of "character"). And again the implication that party ID is affiliational rather than justice-based is simply begging the question.

3) In the third study, the use of the term "bias" again begs the question, implying that it is irrational to donate money to co-partisans except due to emotional affiliation "bias". But if course if one is deciding how to allocate money, how better than based on the justness of the recipient?

4) And in the final study, the entire dichotomy -- seeking to distinguish "outgroup prejudice" vs "ingroup favoritism" -- begs the question; whereas if there is a continuum of justness, then one really can't disentangle favoring the just from disfavoring the unjust, particularly in zero-sum games.

To step back a bit, despite the early disavowal in this thread, Haidt is very apropos, since he is one of major proponents of this view that political behavior is mainly due to bias, emotion, in-group affiliation, etc. This view is in some ways the academic formalization of centrism as an ideology: the two sides are symmetrical in that they are equally emotional, instinctive, biased, and irrational. This presumption is necessary for motivating almost all of this research, since the impact of these papers is in either causing one to despair of politics, or to urge both sides to understand each other better. Fundamentally, the lessons of this stuff are a-political though, or perhaps anti-political, in the sense that they discourage political emotion, affiliation, and action.

The alternative is, I guess, untrendy these days, stuck between the twin vises of purely emotional political psychology on the one side, and purely rational "economic man" on the other. But it's still the case that there is an alternative that isn't so unbelievable: that people actually have strong thoughts and feelings about matters of justice, and judge others based on these theories of justice and the actions of others (such as voting for deeply unjust policies), and that these judgments affect feelings, awards, and monetary exchanges. What theory of justice would not have that? What conception of justice says, yes, these things are hugely important, but should never affect who you give jobs, money, votes, or affection to?

The aggravating thing about Haidt and papers like these is not so much the centrist ideology, but the blithe assumption of it, and the use of all these tendentious and question-begging terms in a study that does not support, or even need, them. This is a fine paper about how political ID affects lots of behaviors. To extrapolate from that to the broader emotion/in-group/affiliation theory with no real evidence just muddies the waters and makes the paper look stodgily normative, to put it mildly. And then to have folks like Haidt, journalists, and internet pundits plump it up even farther with cockamamie straw men, dire scenarios, hand-wringing about language and civility and all the rest -- well, it does make one mad. Because important things are on the line, and justice matters.
posted by chortly at 8:00 PM on January 9, 2016 [18 favorites]


I somehow expected MeFi to receive this article more evenhandedly than it did, but that expectation could only have come from not fully understanding the extent of polarization and othering that the article discusses.
posted by Jpfed at 9:10 PM on January 9, 2016 [8 favorites]


The major issue with assuming that the study reflects polarization that is about ideology as displayed by partisanship is the fact that people seem to not be well-informed about the ideological foundations of the parties they claim to represent.

But it's still the case that there is an alternative that isn't so unbelievable: that people actually have strong thoughts and feelings about matters of justice, and judge others based on these theories of justice and the actions of others (such as voting for deeply unjust policies)

indeed, and that's why I've never in my life voted for anyone who has supported a deeply unjust policy, or even voted for a candidate who belonged to a party that supported a deeply unjust policy. But I accomplished this because I don't vote, not because I voted party line democrat.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:18 PM on January 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


To extrapolate from that to the broader emotion/in-group/affiliation theory with no real evidence just muddies the waters

They administered the same IAT that researchers that study racial prejudice use (and another, modified version to measure implicit attitudes towards political opponents). Does that not constitute evidence? If not, what would you prefer they use?
posted by Jpfed at 9:20 PM on January 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Most of the political science evidence -- as well as what we can see in front of our own noses -- is that party ID has gotten much more aligned with ideology in the last couple decades, though they had always been well correlated.

That doesn't make it ideological; that makes it correlated with ideology. And while the correlation has gone up, it isn't anything special. Just playing with CCES and NES data I had locally, the correlation was about .7 in 2012 and in the .3/.4 range in the 70s.

This literature is about where party ID comes from. It would be ideological in that sense only if people become Democrats because they are liberal and Republicans because they are conservative. While this will be the case for a few people, it would be hard for this to be true in the big, general sense as there are too many Americans who don't know enough, and are too unsophisticated about, politics for that to work.

My sense of the folks I know who are firmly embedded in the parties world (I'm tangentially related since I do work on legislative parties) is that by and large they mostly buy the Green/Shickler account of party id as a social identity. People become Democrats or Republicans because the people they picture when they think of Democrats and Republicans are like them in some ways that are important to them, which is mostly formed before adulthood.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:29 PM on January 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Mod note: A few comments deleted. Please cut out the personal stuff and meta discussion of what Metafilter is like. In general, everyone, please take a breath before jumping in to turn up the heat.
posted by taz (staff) at 10:51 PM on January 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


fwiw, re: "most people don't even know their parties' full platforms" :P
-Which States Rely the Most on Federal Aid?
-Who's the fiscally conservative party, again?

also btw...
  • "people are upset over stuff they see in the media. Extreme partisanship, smug-sounding media elites, racism, SJWs, or whatever... Trumpism is really a spasm of rage against institutional ossification, a la Mancur Olson"
  • "some white people are genuinely scared (irrationally IMO) of becoming an oppressed minority"*
  • My whole argument is "maybe people change their minds in response to how they're treated".
  • "That's why I think racism can only be beaten in a positive, friendly way."*
that last bit seems naive -- can we all just get along? -- and perhaps more so if you replace racism with political partisanship. but a 'positive, friendly way' could also mean striking bargains and buying/peeling off people by reducing some combination of the 'causes for divisiveness', "E.g. the recession, falling incomes, demographic change, social/religious/cultural change, inequality, etc. etc." (preferably the 'economic' ones; people upset by 'demographic and social/religious/cultural change' can sit in deprecated stew ;) so then maybe there's some cause for hope by widening out the (meta-)narrative framing and drilling down to specific policy proposals!

like to maybe get too abstract within the context of a growing (or shrinking) multidimensional 'pie' of political-economic and cultural privileges, how it's divided influences its size, but i think first you have to convince people that it's not necessarily a competitive/zero-sum/finite 'game' but can be a cooperative/win-win/infinite one!

oh and...
"Charles Koch says world has warmed over past 135 years, and 'a big driver is most likely man-generated CO2' ... cc: everyone who is directly or indirectly on Koch payroll"
posted by kliuless at 9:54 AM on January 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


They administered the same IAT that researchers that study racial prejudice use (and another, modified version to measure implicit attitudes towards political opponents). Does that not constitute evidence? If not, what would you prefer they use?

The IAT is designed to detect latent racism that the subject would otherwise disguise if asked directly. There is very little need for it to measure partisan affect, since few people refuse to explicitly divulge it, with the exception of certain self-described "centrists" or "independents". In any case, the IAT measures affect, not the source of affect. The use of the IAT, and the repeated comparisons between racism and partisanship, are begging the question, in that they are presuming that the origins of these two things (irrational feeling due to in-group/out-group prejudice) are the same. But that is just a presumption: the test does not demonstrate it, nor even require it to be true. All it measures is (purportedly non-conscious) affect, not the origins of that affect.

This literature is about where party ID comes from. It would be ideological in that sense only if people become Democrats because they are liberal and Republicans because they are conservative. While this will be the case for a few people, it would be hard for this to be true in the big, general sense as there are too many Americans who don't know enough, and are too unsophisticated about, politics for that to work.

My sense of the folks I know who are firmly embedded in the parties world (I'm tangentially related since I do work on legislative parties) is that by and large they mostly buy the Green/Shickler account of party id as a social identity. People become Democrats or Republicans because the people they picture when they think of Democrats and Republicans are like them in some ways that are important to them, which is mostly formed before adulthood.


As your correlation numbers suggest, the classical partisanship literature remains a bit stuck in the past -- and not just "the past," but a very specific era of the past, the 40's-70's. Prior and subsequent to that, party ID and ideology were much more straightforwardly aligned. People may be ignorant of many party specifics, but they know which party stands for guns, lower taxes, religion, etc, and which one stands for welfare, education, etc. This was a bit muddled in the middle of the 20th century due to the South, but that was an outlier in the 200-year history of the US, by my reading. I agree "social identity" remains dominant in political science, and is in part driving this work in political psychology, but I think it is very hard to distinguish causally (since both ideology and party ID are learned early), and much more likely these days that ideology shapes which party you first vote for (particularly if you call yourself an independent), rather than the other way around. The other way round remains dominant because it was (somewhat) true in the 60s/70s when the classic books were being written, but IMHO it really doesn't hold much water now, except perhaps for older folks. But in any case -- we'll never solve that problem in a few posts here! My main point with respect to the article at hand is that it presumes this view without adding any additional evidence for it. And it doesn't need to even presume it, since the empirical results (partisan information affects feelings and behaviors!) don't require it. But it creates this illusion of supporting and proving the view (particularly with the IAT slight-of-hand) that I think is deleterious to figuring out these tricky causal issues.
posted by chortly at 10:31 AM on January 10, 2016 [6 favorites]


"social identity"

A question I have (and will continue to read about, in e.g. the work of John Jost) is the extent to which gist-level schemas relating to fundamental beliefs around 1) what it is to be a person, and 2) the nature of society and reality play into social identity, ideology, and party affiliation. Ideas like "I/humans are self-determined & have radically free will" + "society is just and meritocratic" align with how conservative values and policies are marketed. (And the opposites of those ideas fit comfortably with how liberal values and policies are marketed).

If political parties are the most accessible and visible vehicles or representational packages (if you like) for these foundational beliefs, and if party lines have hardened and become increasingly seemingly intractably opposed, it's sort of understandable that bias and polarization might be increasing. And amplified, if injected with fear about how the outcomes of the "wrong" policies might threaten survival, given the economic and political instability we've all had to get used to, lately.
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:22 PM on January 10, 2016


2) In the second study, using "intrusion" to describe the role of politics for the scholarship experiment begs the question. It is not at all clear to me at least that, in a "deadlocked" scholarship (footnote 6), one should never use any notion of justice in adjudicating an otherwise deadlocked decision about something as broad as a "scholarship" (which often include matters of "character"). And again the implication that party ID is affiliational rather than justice-based is simply begging the question.

chortly, are you endorsing making scholarship decisions for high school seniors by considering their partisan affiliation?

Could you explain what conception of justice justifies this?
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:48 AM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Prior and subsequent to that, party ID and ideology were much more straightforwardly aligned.

Maybe I'm just being dense, but how would be know that? We don't have scientific mass surveys of political attitudes from 1880 or 1920 or 1930. Obviously party and votes were more highly correlated in Congress, but that doesn't make that true in the mass public.

much more likely these days that ideology shapes which party you first vote for (particularly if you call yourself an independent)

But this isn't about which party you vote for, it's about party ID. You can identify as a Republican or independent and have always voted for Democrats.

I expect we're talking past each other and by ideology you mean someone's self-identification as a liberal or conservative, but I don't think that's what the literature would usually mean. For me anyway, for ideology to shape party ID, you have to first have a meaningful ideology -- not just say "I'm conservative" or be able to pick out a point on a liberal/conservative scale, but actually show high attitude constraint, and if the survey allows it show some evidence that you think about politics in these terms. I haven't seen data lately, and know that constraint has been rising, but I would be surprised if enough Americans had consistent enough ideology (as opposed to just a hodgepodge of lightly correlated attitudes) for ideology to shape their partisanship.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:38 AM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]




I want to say something in this thread, but I find that Obama said it said it better than I could last night...
The future we want — opportunity and security for our families; a rising standard of living and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids — all that is within our reach. But it will only happen if we work together. It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates.
It will only happen if we fix our politics.

A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. This is a big country, with different regions and attitudes and interests. That’s one of our strengths, too. Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security.

But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice, or that our political opponents are unpatriotic. Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested, and we listen only to those who agree with us. Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get attention. Most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some narrow interest.

Too many Americans feel that way right now. It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency — that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better.

....

What I’m asking for is hard. It’s easier to be cynical; to accept that change isn’t possible, and politics is hopeless, and to believe that our voices and actions don’t matter. But if we give up now, then we forsake a better future. Those with money and power will gain greater control over the decisions that could send a young soldier to war, or allow another economic disaster, or roll back the equal rights and voting rights that generations of Americans have fought, even died, to secure. As frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do, or share the same background.

We can’t afford to go down that path. It won’t deliver the economy we want, or the security we want, but most of all, it contradicts everything that makes us the envy of the world.
I also wish everyone would go and read War is a Force That Gives us Meaning by Chris Hedges. Because his stories about how people exaggerated the tiniest cultural differences between neighbors in the former Yugoslavia to define an "us" and a "them" and then literally go to war, each side believing that they are fighting for truth and justice because obviously They hate truth and justice... It feels awfully familiar. Lattes and Volvos vs. pick up trucks and country music...
posted by OnceUponATime at 3:20 PM on January 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


What’s more, partisan identification isn’t even a particularly good guide a person’s ideological positions on those matters. Precisely because most districts are safe districts for one party or another, voters’ experiences of the parties do not necessarily line up with their beliefs about specific policy issues. Ideological consistency of voters has never been particularly strong: it’s growing, but from a very low base.

Even in a world where partisans will deny each other jobs and scholarships, only 56% of Democrats hold mostly liberal views, and only 45% of Republicans hold mostly liberal views. If you expect true ideological consistency from partisans (the sort of thing that political philosophers try to achieve, maybe) then you’ll find partisan identification even less helpful: only 23% of Democrats and 13% of Republicans are consistently or rigorously liberal or conservative. So what justifies the enmity?
posted by anotherpanacea at 11:52 AM on January 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


So what justifies the enmity?

Well, here's a theory as to what explains the enmity.

Pick a random person who votes for the Democratic Party candidate. That person might not be strongly ideologically liberal across the board, but that person might be strongly liberal with respect to some core value. Similarly for those who vote for Republican candidates. For example, someone might be a single-issue voter focused on abortion. That's an issue that both sides see as morally weighty and worth fighting about. A conservative Christian might vote for a Republican because the Republican has a strong anti-abortion stance and not give a second's thought to tax policy or military spending or social security or the environment.

Because such issues are weighty, because the voter is fixated on just one such issue, and because from that individual voter's perspective, one party is morally right while the other is morally wrong, the voter forms the (incorrect) opinion that anyone voting for the other side must have the opposite view on that issue. And hence, anyone voting for the other side is morally wrong. Perhaps even a moral monster.

Even if an anti-partisan doesn't have a different opinion on an important issue, a person might think that the anti-partisan is still morally depraved because the anti-partisan privileges a "less important" issue over a "more important" one. Suppose Jackie and Suzy both think that abortion is wrong and that climate change is a serious problem. Jackie votes for a Democrat because she thinks that climate change is the most important issue. Suzy votes for a Republican because she thinks abortion is the most important issue. (Suppose they agree about whose policies if enacted would make the biggest difference with respect to abortion and to climate change, and set aside whether they are right about those judgments.) I can well imagine Jackie thinking that Suzy is a moral monster and vice versa precisely because they weight their basic values the "wrong" way. The fact that they agree on so much might actually make things worse. (At least, that has often been my experience in purely academic arguments. When the people I am intellectually closest to disagree with me, I find that the disagreement becomes much more visceral and shouty.)

Because there are many issues that could be fixation points, voters don't need to be especially ideologically pure in order to see anti-partisans as morally bad people. And if people see anti-partisans as morally bad, then I don't find it too surprising that they discriminate.

Do you know of any empirical evidence bearing on my hypothesis one way or the other? Can you think of any observations we could make that would be a crucial test?

As to justification, I'm not sure. Perhaps it isn't good to discriminate against people that one thinks are morally bad. But maybe it is good. Like all of these sorts of debates, it surely depends on both the correct moral theory and on the facts. If the correct moral theory were some form of utilitarianism, say, and if discriminating against people who tend to support policies that decrease overall utility made it less likely that such policies would be enacted, then it would be morally correct to discriminate, yes? (I know that's a lot of ifs, and it might also be a reductio of utilitarianism, but I want to see how the argument goes.)

I tentatively agree with you that it is not good to discriminate against high schoolers one believes to have morally repugnant views. But as a rule of thumb? I'm not so sure. At the very least, I think it's less clear cut than you make it out to be. In any event, you're the moral philosopher (I'm a philosopher of science, not an ethicist), so you'll have to help me with respect to what is plausible in contemporary moral theory.
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 1:32 PM on January 14, 2016 [4 favorites]


So I'm having a Facebook chat with a really smart political psychologist right now about her paper on this very issue. She argues that belief congruence better explains outgroup hatred, and she has some cool experiments under review right now that I'm looking at in an unpublished draft.

But here's where that starts to be a problem. It turns out that belief congruence ALSO explains racial animosity, according to Rokeach 1960 & 1966. Beliefs about the beliefs of Black people drove some very large portion of racism in the 1960s.... These beliefs were just as likely to be wrong as partisan ones (since actualy partisanship is not very ideological). So now what?!?

Now this political psychologist claims that we can't find big data in support of the "narcissism of small differences" problem you describe, which is interesting. Because I feel like that's exactly what motivates in-fighting in academic departments and activist groups: small deviations are in some sense more dangerous than large deviations because the purpose of social identity is to maintain the line between insider and outsider, and small deviations blur that.

On the morality, well, I'm more of a political philosopher but I do enough value theory to want to check what I think. My intuition (this is not well-worked out, though I've written about it) is that it's probably okay and even important to discriminate against people who are actually bad. But it's deeply wrong to use the wrong cues to decide who is bad, both because of the harms this does to those people and the epistemic harm this does to ourselves. (I find character skepticism quite tempting.) So this is a very narrow target, and there are actually no (or almost no) cues that can dependably distinguish the good from the bad, so as a general rule we shouldn't discriminate. In the case of anti-partisans, it's almost certainly a really bad idea to make global character judgments on the basis of party id just because party id is a really inaccurate cue but even more importantly because we need our anti-partisans for collaborative political work. (Cf. the massive literature on bridging v bonding social capital etc. etc.)
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:06 PM on January 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


As far as "is it okay to discriminate against those with morally repugnant views," I think there's a limit in which it is (I admit I have no real problem with the "ban Trump from the UK" petition that went around) but that it is best to be very generous in our judgments of the morality of other people. Because of the whole mote in your neighbor's eye vs. plank in your own, thing. Which of us does not support unjust systems? Who is innocent?

But also, how many people really think through their own rhetoric to its natural conclusions? Many of us are not nearly as bad in our actions as we would be if we really lived by the principles we espouse... We are hypocrites in that we are better than our words. It's just that we don't realize how bad our words really are. Failure of imagination due to a privileged background, or failure of self-control when we find ourselves saying awful things just to blow off steam, or a blindness caused by a lack of privilege when the (real) injustices we've faced loom so much larger in our minds than the injustices faced by others... But if all of those problems lead to bad moral reasoning, many people still have good moral instincts which guide them to be better than their rhetoric when the time comes to act.

So while I would not give a scholarship to Donald Trump himself (he does not need more money or power to execute the terrible agenda he's laid out...) I like to think I might give one to a poor kid who happens to be a Trump supporter. There's a good chance he'll change his views eventually, and even if he doesn't, there's a good chance his behavior is better than his rhetoric, and even if it's not, I'm sure not perfect either. As long as the kid isn't going to use the money to try to build a wall between the US and Mexico, I don't think being incorrect about politics deserves punishment.
posted by OnceUponATime at 8:33 AM on January 15, 2016


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