Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Report-The Perception Gap: How False Impressions are Pulling Americans Apart

Report-The Perception Gap: How False Impressions are Pulling Americans Apart, Metamora Herald

A recent report published by More In Common, The Perception Gap offers wisdom on the tribalism that continues to grow in American politics.
This report provides insights into the ways in which opposing partisan groups perceiveeach other. It compares the extent to which Republicans and Democrats think theydisagree with the amount they actually disagree: a “Perception Gap.” It also examines how personal attributes (e.g. educational attainment) and behaviors (e.g. media consumption) can broaden or narrow the Perception Gap. These insights are intended not just to describe a problem, but to inform efforts to improve understanding between opposing partisan groups. This study forms part of More in Common’s Hidden Tribes project, the goal of whichis to understand and counteract growing forces of polarization in the United States.One finding that emerged during our qualitative research interviews with Americans was a disconnection between the way participants described Americans from the opposing political party, and our own experience of those from the opposing partyas we interviewed them. This finding prompted us to conduct a new phase of research after the 2018 midterm elections, to better understand this gap between perception and reality. Working with the international polling firm YouGov, More in Common fielded an online survey to a representative sample of 2,100 Americans. Participants were asked questions not just about their own views on a range of relevant political and policy issues, but also what they thought their opponents believed about such issues. This provides insight into how accurate or mistaken Americans are in their estimates of their opponents’ views.
Most Americans identify as either Democrats or Republicans, and while these sides have maintained robust political disagreements in the past, they typically did not view each other as presenting a threat to democracy itself. These days, however, that has changed, and politics is frequently viewed as a zero-sum game. This has been accompanied by an increasing tendency of both sides to view the other as extreme in their political views.In reality, the results of this study suggest that Americans imagine themselves to befar more divided than they really are. While Americans will undoubtedly always harbordisagreements about issues ranging from tax law to gun control, the proportion ofpeople holding more mainstream views about many of our most hotly debated issuesis far greater than most Americans realize.Furthermore, this study highlights possible sources for these mistaken perceptions.Two institutions intended to provide greater objective understanding of the world—the media and higher education—are in fact correlated with less accurate politicalperceptions. While we cannot determine whether these behaviors cause moreinaccurate understandings directly, these relationships certainly raise questionsabout the role that higher education and media consumption have on shaping theirconsumers’ political perceptions.The statements used to measure Perception Gaps were selected to reflect a rangeof recent issues in political debate. The subjects range widely, from racism andimmigration to climate change and gun rights. The size of Perception Gaps are nodoubt affected by the choice of topics and framing of the issues. Further researchcould examine how the size of gaps differs across categories of issues. The emphasisin our analysis is however the existence of Perception Gaps, how they vary acrossgroups, factors that exacerbate and reduce them, and the implications for oursociety's polarization.While this research reveals disturbing trends, the overall message is positive: Americans often have more in common than they believe. Those with the greatest levels of hostility towards their political opponents typically understand them the least. This fundamental insight could be used as a basis for a more productive dialogue between opposing camps and moving forward on critical threats and challenges confronting the United States as we enter the 2020s.
The whole report can be found at https://perceptiongap.us/

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