Commentary

Republicans think the worst of Democrats and vice versa

By Clint Parker

In a recent study released by Perceptiongap.us, “Almost two-thirds of Americans describe themselves as either Democrats or Republicans, and with every passing year, each side seems to dislike the other more and more. They trust each other less, they fear each other more, and they struggle to understand how those on the other side of the political fence could possibly hold so many wrong-headed views.

“But with today’s personalized social media feeds and our tendency to live in bubbles of like-minded friends, are we getting each other wrong?” asks the study. “As part of its ongoing investigation into the root causes of political polarization, More in Common wanted to find out whether Republicans and Democrats could separate perception from reality.”

The group teamed up with a global research firm and surveyed 2,100 Americans on several issues, asking their beliefs and what they thought the other side of the aisle might believe. What they found is “Americans have a deeply distorted understanding of each other. We call this America’s ‘Perception Gap.’ Overall, Democrats and Republicans imagine almost twice as many of their political opponents as reality hold views they consider ‘extreme.’ Even on the most controversial issues in our national debates, Americans are less divided than most of us think,” the study concluded.

The truth is most of us, whether Democrat, Republican or Independent, agree more than we think and just don’t know it. Apparently, the news media is not helping the situation either (I hope present company is an exception). The study “…found that the more news people consumed, the larger their Perception Gap. People who said they read the news, most of the time’ were nearly three times more distorted in their perceptions than those who said they read the news ‘only now and then.’” There’s a reason we here at the Tribune/Leader stay away from partisan politics if we can help it. If you haven’t learned yet, we all have the ability to go astray.

How about education? Did being more educated help narrow that perception gap? Nope! “Education is intended to make us better informed about the world, so we’d expect that the more educated you become, the more you understand what other Americans think,” stated the study. “In fact, the more educated a person is, the worse their Perception Gap – with one critical exception. This trend only holds true for Democrats, not Republicans. In other words, while Republicans’ misperceptions of Democrats did not improve with higher levels of education, Democrats’ understanding of Republicans actually gets worse with every additional degree they earn. This effect is so strong that Democrats without a high school diploma are three times more accurate than those with a postgraduate degree.”

I believe this difference in educated members of the parties is because our colleges and universities are so liberal that they are pushing a progressive agenda on the students and it’s working. Please email or write us if you agree or disagree with my interpretation of the cause of more educated Democrats tending to take a more biased view of Republicans, I’d love to hear your thoughts on my conclusion about this matter.

Last of all, the study looked at the part social media plays in the perception gap. “First, only 26% of Americans report sharing social media posts about politics,” the report stated. “Second, these Americans have higher Perception Gaps than the national average. While those who do not post on social media have an average Perception Gap of 18, those who do post on social media have an average Perception Gap of 29. The political content we see on social media is therefore disproportionately from people with a more distorted understanding of the other side, further adding to the problem.” It sounds like it would be good for all of us 26 percenters who are posting politics to social media to stop posting the crap from our side of the argument and spend more time talking to our neighbors across the fence and face-to-face.

The study certainly had some eye-opening results and maybe it will help the rest of us understand that people aren’t political party they are members of, but human beings in need of understanding and as long as we can be civil to one another and respect each other’s points of view, we’ll all be better off.

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Clint Parker

Publisher & Editor Weaverville Tribune

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