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New Study Finds that Political Partisanship Impacts Every Corner of Our Lives Including Thanksgiving

Researchers have determined that the Culture Wars are increasingly impacting our relationships with friends, family and co-workers. The United States is in the midst of a Culture War. The majority of politically engaged citizens report that they feel afraid of and anger toward members of the other party. This interpartisan animosity appears to be a growing phenomenon; the percentage of partisans who reported “very unfavorable” views of the other side more than doubled in the past two decades, from ~20% in 1994 to ~55% in 2016. The rift has become so strong that it seems to now be stronger than racial, religious, or ethnic tensions. Both sides are motivated to avoid the other side, even showing a willingness to forgo money to avoid hearing what the other side has to say. These sentiments are strong enough that they can manifest as discrimination at work and in relationships. The result is spatial sorting, with people tuning in to ideologically congenial news outlets, echoing the sentiments of likeminded others in social media bubbles, and moving to politically homogenous neighborhoods.

According to a new study published last week, political partisanship now even impacts our relationship with family members at social gatherings like Thanksgiving. The two psychology professors, Linda Skitka and Jeremy Frimer, who conducted the research found that the Thanksgiving dinners of politically diverse families were 24 minutes shorter than politically uniform ones.

Their study confirmed earlier research that found that "even intimate family gatherings seem to be subject to Culture War tensions." However, Skitka and Frimer did note that the negative impact of political partisanship doesn't seem to be quite as "strong and toxic" as determined in the earlier study which took place right after the election of Donald Trump.

There are several reasons why Thanksgiving dinners might be shortened when there is a substantial amount of political diversity in the family. One is called selective exposure motivation, the general desire to avoid hearing from the “other side.” Another concerns our desire to avoid conflict by limiting our interactions on divisive subjects. That generally involves staying away from politics as a topic of conversation. Both reduce dinner table conversations to subjects like food, sports, and family gossip.

If you are interested in reading more about the consequences of America's political polarization, this piece from 2017 is fascinating: The economic consequences of partisanship in a polarized era. American Journal of Political Science.

By: Don Lam & Curated Content


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