New Study Shows Hatred Between GOP, Democrats Mostly 'Exaggerated' (Dreamstime)
By Jay Clemons | Tuesday, 24 May 2022 03:23 PM
Do Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill truly loathe each other?
Or is the vitriol between the political parties merely a made-for-TV stunt, designed to distract Americans from how these same politicians regularly sit together in an executive dining room?
A new study from the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication has the results leaning toward the second scenario.
The U-Penn study determined that negative partisanship between the two parties can be largely exaggerated.
The Annenberg survey included two question for respondents:
- How widespread is partisan hatred?
- Is that hatred more intense than an American's love for their own political party?
Using several different methods, "including a survey examining how political polarization and hatred of an opponent affects party affiliation, researchers found that the main reason Americans choose their political party has more to do with love than hate," says the Annenberg group.
Survey researchers also explored the loyalty records of voters, based on the perceived "hatred" of their political opponent.
To accomplish this, U-Penn researchers used an experiment that separated hurting the opposing political party monetarily, and helping their own party monetarily.
The results: Voters are generally more interested in supporting their own political beliefs as opposed to tearing down those with different viewpoints.
"If there’s this gap in how much you like your side and dislike the other side, and it's all motivated by emotions, you're less likely to hold presidents accountable for things and more likely to vote for your side no matter what they do, even when it's corrupt," professor Yphtach Lelkes said in a media release.
"If it's just driven by hatred, then it's not about interest groups and coming together and fighting for your group. It's much more toxic."
Study leader Amber Hye-Yon Lee hopes the team findings can help Americans better understand their politically charged behaviors, while also achieving empathy with their neighbors' viewpoints.
"Many people are led to believe that the other side is driven by hatred and is out to get them," Lee says.
"Hatred only breeds hatred, so by showing that there is really no clear evidence for hatred of the other party trumping everything, I am hoping we can clear up some of the misperceptions people have about how much they are hated by their political opponents, and by extension, discourage people from feeding their own hostility in response to exaggerated perceptions of hostility coming from the other side."
Lelkes concedes that some scholars enjoy using the term "negative partisanship" in their studies because of the attention it can bring.
However, for the most part, it's a misnomer.
The U-Penn team also credits — or perhaps blames — media outlets for furthering the division among every-day American voters, saying the slanted coverage of certain news events or political figures can have a polarizing effect on readers and viewers.
"When we talk about politics being overwhelmingly negative, it leads to that," Lelkes said. "We are wildly off in how we think the other side feels about us. We're trying to tone that down."