‘Who Do You Loathe?’

15 Sep, 2020


‘Who Do You Loathe?’

September 2020

Americans might not hate one another as much or as intensely as we’re told. Research out of Ohio State University finds that most public opinion surveys about partisanship ask Americans their attitudes toward political parties and their leaders, rather than ordinary people who happen to belong to those parties, which leads to skewed results.

“Because many people have extremely negative views of the opposing party and the politicians who lead them, this measure greatly exaggerates the extent to which people dislike ordinary people on the other side,” writes Jon Kingzette of Ohio State’s political science department.

Kingzette finds that Democrats’ feelings about ordinary Republicans “are on average 28% higher than their scores toward the Republican Party,” while Republicans’ scores toward ordinary Democrats “are on average 49% higher than their scores toward Democratic politicians and 43% higher than their scores toward the Democratic Party.” There were 859 participants in the study, with 460 Democrats and 399 Republicans.

An interesting wrinkle: While party members “prefer ordinary people in the out-group party to the party itself, these preferences are reversed for their own party, such that they actually prefer their own party [meaning its organization and leaders] to ordinary members of their own party.”

If it’s true that people are less hostile to ordinary members of the other party — to what Chris Matthews used to call “real Americans” — this is great news for anyone trying to communicate effectively with Democrats, Republicans and independents alike.

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