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NY Times: Polarization is Dividing American Society, Not Just Politics

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posted on Jun, 16 2014 @ 02:05 PM

Twenty-seven percent of Democrats and 36 percent of Republicans see the other party as a threat to the nation’s well-being. Consistent liberals and consistent conservatives, those who hold nearly uniform liberal or conservative beliefs, are even more alarmed: 50 percent of consistent liberals and 66 percent of consistent conservatives see the other party as a threat to the nation.

The animosity is so deep that many would be unhappy if a close relative married someone of a different political persuasion: 23 percent of consistent liberals would be unhappy if an immediate family member married a conservative, and 30 percent of consistent conservatives would be unhappy if a close relative married a Democrat.

This is actually a really interesting study done by everybody's favorite, Pew Research (cough, cough--sarcasm) as the article comes with an interactive graph plotting out political ideologies over a period of 20 years. Before I actually post the image from 2014, several years ago, while taking Political Science, the subject of political ideology came up and the professor stated that it was one of those things that typically falls under a bell curve pattern where the bulk of the population is hovering right around the middle of the graph and should look like this:

(Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Using the interactive to go back to 1994, this is what political ideologies looked like and you can kind of see that lumpy bell curve within the diagram. It's pretty "normal" statistically speaking where you have the bulk of the population hovering at the center and not a whole lot of the population on the extreme ends of the graph. In fact, that is what defines polarization as it's being used in this article. Polarization, basically defined, is an accumulation towards the extremes.

And this is today.

A severely polarized, non-normal American society where that normalized bell curve looks like it's been stomped on severely. Instead of hovering around the middle, the American public is sharply divided and accumulating towards the extreme ends of political ideology. I'd say that we don't have to look any further to find evidence of this than these very boards. Just about every political conversation is filled with attacks against not only the other political party but any of those whom the author of the post deems to be of the opposite political belief. It's not just here on ATS. You can see these kind of "conversations" just about anywhere on the net and they are frequently pretty rabid. That's polarization.

So, if we, as a population, tend to fall along that normal bell curve, then what the hell happened? Back in my poli sci class days, I had to do a research paper on the subject of media bias in the press. A lot of the papers that I read covered the expected--questioning whether it existed and discussing the effects when it did. A few of the papers, however, discussed the effects of media in terms of polarization. They predicted that, as things were going, that society within the US was going to grow increasingly polarized due to the changes within the media--not just the press but the internet, itself. Here's a number of articles on the subject of media and polarization of American politics:

New Media and the Polarization of American Political Discourse --Discusses political bias of multiple popular news related websites.

Red Media, Blue Media: Evidence of Ideological Selectivity in Media Use--Again, discusses polarization of news reporting, including television with a focus on user selectivity in order to avoid dissonance by reading stories that are harmful to their ideological perceptions.

Media and Political Polarization--Discusses persuasion, selective exposure and argues against the concept of polarization within American society and claims that polarization, if it exists, exists in political activists and "news junkies".

What do you think? Are we really becoming polarized and accumulating towards more extreme views or is this just "news junkies"? One interesting thing to note is that, typically while doing a public opinion poll, the number of respondents required tend to be a little over 1000 respondents. This survey by Pew was different--way different.

The study is not the first to suggest that American politics are sorting along ideological lines. But it is based on a survey of 10,000 Americans, roughly 10 times the size of the average political poll. Respondents were asked novel questions about lifestyle, not just policy preferences.NY Times

edit on 16/6/14 by WhiteAlice because: there we go, done tweaking.

posted on Jun, 16 2014 @ 02:11 PM
Divide and Conquer.. now with graphs!

I think it is all done to essentially keep focus on a controlled opposition. I have said it before, but if one presents a matter in a way that both the negative and positive reaction benefit them in the end.. then most will never catch on and those that do will never be numerous enough to matter.

It also lays a foundation to play the blame game, which is one those games that the winning move is to never play. But, it does allow us to blame everyone but ourselves and when everyone does that, nobody will ever think to be the change they wish to see in the world. At least not in enough numbers to change the paradigm.

posted on Jun, 16 2014 @ 02:23 PM
Yeah. Read this the other day. It's sad really, but who couldn't have predicted that this polarization in politics would cause escalating polarization in society as well, and who hasn't felt this affect personally? As a mater of that, this was probably the agenda and the goal,and, well, mission almost accomplished.

Many think it wouldn't be a bad thing if people of like minds and like thinking clustered together and hated on those who were not just like them. I don't happen to be one of these people, even though there are times when I wish those causing and encouraging this behavior would just go find themselves a nice plot of dirt and just go away. But that's more out of frustration than anything else I think.

The good news is there's still a chance we'll get over it and the trends won't continue. Correcting the course might take a while though.

posted on Jun, 16 2014 @ 02:26 PM
NY Times: Polarization is Dividing American Society, Not Just Politics

Not true.

Because the majority of people don't vote, watch Fox News, or MSNBC

Use Facebook and Twitter more than they read the news.

Or watch reality tv.

The majority of people are oblivious to the current state of the union.

The only people who are polarized are hardcore political 'junkies' no offense meant there like myself.
edit on 16-6-2014 by neo96 because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 16 2014 @ 02:29 PM
a reply to: Serdgiam

lol yeah, I do love graphs because they are amazing tools. Of course, I'm a stats nerd so that's to be expected. I'm still tripping over the number of respondents Pew used on this subject matter because it is "wow" worthy from a statistical point of view. The higher the number of respondents, the higher the confidence in the data. That's a big deal in this subject.

I agree, actually. Back in the 90's, the political ideologies were actually barely distinguishable from each other and Democrats were losing seats due to a push towards trickle down/Reaganomics. In response, the Democrats (and the UK Labour Party, which was suffering from the same issue) developed the Third Way. I think it is at that point where political ideologies shifted into those unresolvable grounds that are nearly inextricably tied with emotions and prone towards inflexibility (ie abortion). Stratifying the public on these unresolvable terms does, in fact, act like a controlled opposition where each party can be confident in obtaining X percentage of votes and where the centrists may determine the winner.

The concerns I have about this is that it's long been said that there are two subjects in which people are going to get hot under the collar--politics and religion. If we have increasing polarization occurring in the US, then does that equate to drifting towards extremism? I've seen videos online of one person threatening another of the opposing party and I've seen those kind of videos on both sides. It's pure madness but that's why I put this post in US Political Madness. What effect does this have on human interactions, views of one's neighbor and more? Is this divergence towards more extreme views going to generate more extreme actions?

posted on Jun, 16 2014 @ 02:38 PM

originally posted by: WhiteAlice
a reply to: Serdgiam
The concerns I have about this is that it's long been said that there are two subjects in which people are going to get hot under the collar--politics and religion. If we have increasing polarization occurring in the US, then does that equate to drifting towards extremism? I've seen videos online of one person threatening another of the opposing party and I've seen those kind of videos on both sides. It's pure madness but that's why I put this post in US Political Madness. What effect does this have on human interactions, views of one's neighbor and more? Is this divergence towards more extreme views going to generate more extreme actions?

I have great concerns about it as well. Specifically because I see it filtering down from the political/religious arena into others. Two "kinda family" members of mine had a falling out because they disagreed on who should have won one of "those" shows (cant remember which one, maybe american idol or something).

I see the same tactics being used on almost every story that is presented in the media as well. They present it in a way that whether you disagree or agree, you are likely to still play into the paradigm of division.

Unless people wake up to the idea, I think your point about extremism is very pertinent. VERY. Who in their right mind would have a falling out with a family member over a disagreement about some stupid, mindless entertainment? They went on to also fall away from the family as a whole, because most of us pointed out it was far too extreme, so they decided to leave their family in the dust and in their words "join people who understand the important things."

Im still confused about that event, if I am honest. But, that was the first moment I saw the behavior that is usually relegated to those "hot topics." I have been seeing many topics recently that tow this same mentality, and about pretty much any topic you can imagine from race, to gender, to music, to science, etc. I am definitely concerned about how this will be used against the majority of the population to hold onto a dying and archaic paradigm. It harms all of us, including those grasping.

posted on Jun, 16 2014 @ 03:45 PM
a reply to: neo96

Well that's exactly what makes this Pew survey so very, very interesting. Prior studies have shown that people, in self-reporting, will basically claim to be more politically interested than they actually are. I think I posted a paper discussing that issue where it compared self-reporting v. Nielson data and it was pretty disparate. However, this particular survey not only had that extremely high number of respondents but was asking questions about lifestyle and not necessarily political policy opinions. That makes it a big deal as it's avoiding those pitfalls of self-reporting and is actually looking at the way that people choose to live in combination with their political ideology.

There are papers discussing the issues of voter participation because it is a huge issue. The number one cited cause for declining voter participation is a lack of civic engagement. Whether it is because people don't have time, are unaware, or simply just trust their government, between the 70's to the 90's, people were simply losing their civic engagement and that's been reflected in the voting booth. Another issue for voter participation is voter disenfranchisement due to allegations of fraud both on the part of allegations of "doctored votes" and measures taken to avoid voter fraud making voting more difficulty.

However, looking at voter participation as being reflective of people's political leanings isn't particularly a good gauge of people's actual political interest. You state that "the majority of people are oblivious to the current state of the union". I'd counter that they are not and that they basically are choosing to trust their elected officials on their specific party lines to correct it or that they, alternatively, feel like the issues are so dauntingly complex and large that they do not know what to do. Or they could simply be accepting the way things are as being representative of their own interests and ergo, not see a problem at all.

Again though, this survey is in terms of lifestyle and not overt policy opinions. It's not asking if they voted or how much news they watch. It's asking how they are living their life and examining how their political views are enacted within that life.

You raise a good point about hardcore political junkies. The thing is, though, is if hardcore political junkies (I'm a centrist and have never been affiliated with either political party btw) are becoming so divisive that meaningful conversation doesn't exist without being peppered with ad hominems, then doesn't that pose a problem? It's more than likely to be those hardcore political junkies that are doing the voting and if they can't get along or work out disagreements on a forum, then is it any surprise that Congress is having issues?

posted on Jun, 16 2014 @ 03:53 PM
a reply to: WhiteAlice

Well that's exactly what makes this Pew survey so very, very interesting

There is little difference between modern 'politics' than any previous generation even going back to the beginning of this country.

There is not one original political issue that we fight over.

It has just been rinse, and repeated for over two centuries now.

Both sides expect a different result.

But the result has always been the same.

Some people call that the definition of insanity.

Because they keep expecting a different one.

posted on Jun, 16 2014 @ 06:01 PM
a reply to: neo96

I disagree. A few years ago, I was operating under that same assumption until I actually was forced to look into the subjects. The fact is that we're becoming increasingly disenfranchised as voters and a whole less involved in terms of actual civic engagement. These things have been a steady change since the 1970's.

The political parties have only been static really in the last 100 years or so. Parties rose and fell through our country's history and these parties frequently were spawned by new ideas from economists, philosophers (Marx, anyone?) and more. The landscape has changed in politics.

Look into these matters. Google scholar hosts a huge amount of research papers and studies on the subjects of politics in the US. Considering that we seem to be have some truly worrisome issues in this country, it's just not enough simply make statements based on opinion without ever looking at actual research.

posted on Jun, 16 2014 @ 06:05 PM
a reply to: WhiteAlice

Read this guy don't have to agree with him, but listen to what he says.

Watch this guy don't have to agree with him, just listen to what he says.

Politics is same crap different day repeat ad inifinitum

posted on Jun, 16 2014 @ 06:32 PM
"NY Times: Polarization is Dividing American Society, Not Just Politics"

IMO the main reasons for this "Parting of the Red Sea" phenomenon are the radical extreme Left Wing policies exercised in recent years especially in 2009 and 2010.

The general Right Wing has not changed much (other than perhaps drifting Left as a National Group).

Voters put more weight on Local representation policies and less on National.

The "Right" wants to dampen the mania of the "Left" and the "Left" wants to go farther into the ultra-Progressive Global agendas.

The displayed "Frustrations" of intolerance are amplified 10-fold by average Democrats compared to the average Republican.

The Left needs to cool their jets before they can expect any cooperation any time soon.

posted on Jun, 16 2014 @ 07:00 PM
The extreme left are never going to "cool their jets" they want their utopia and they want it now,no matter how many are killed to accomplish their ideals.

posted on Jun, 16 2014 @ 07:19 PM
"IMO the main reasons for this "Parting of the Red Sea" phenomenon are the radical extreme Left Wing policies exercised in recent years especially in 2009 and 2010. "

"The extreme left are never going to "cool their jets" they want their utopia and they want it now,no matter how many are killed to accomplish their ideals."

I was wondering how long it would take to happen in this thread.

posted on Jun, 16 2014 @ 07:49 PM
a reply to: neo96

Much better. Thank you.

Taxation, I think, has probably been a source of dispute ever since the concept was first created, lol. The other long time argument that went on was States' rights v. Federal. In fact, the division in the earliest time period of our government up until about 1820 was pure States' rights v. Federal where you were either a Federalist or you weren't. These days, I'd argue that the States v. Federal argument has become decisively blurred in both parties. The Democrats may take on an anti-Federalist theme when it comes to subjects like abortion or gay marriage while the Republicans may take on an anti-Federalist them in regards to the regulation of business. It's blurred depending on the subject.

Reagan talks about the whole left v. right dichotomy in that speech from 1964. However, that left v. right issue didn't really become THE issue until the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the mid-19th century, you had the industrial revolution and Karl Marx, which basically created a series of revolutions across Europe ( Revolutions of 1848) A lot of those motivations did actually shift here to the US and we did have our own bits of violence such as the Ludlow Massacre and the Homestead Strike. After the Bolshevik Revolution, there were a series of bombings including the Wall Street Bombing of 1920 here in the US and the Red Scare that included the US labor movement. By the time the Great Depression rolled around, the Democrats basically tapped into the rising sentiments with a neutered form of Bolshevism through the New Deal Coalition. By the time Reagan made the above speech, New Deal politics were falling out of favor in lieu of the "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" mentality. By the time the 90's hit, Democrats shifted largely to the right on the political spectrum through the adoption of the Third Way.

Comparatively, back in 1787 and 1788, we had a rebellion in this country called Shay's Rebellion. The response to it was the disposal of our first "constitutional" equivalent, the Articles of Confederation,and the formation of our current government. That was the response to the "War on Poverty" back in the 18th century--create a centralized and empowered federal government. The Articles of Confederation did not have that.

Sometimes I think the reason why the same sayings get regurgitated up though is because those are the ones that worked in the past. It's all PR when you think about it.

edit on 16/6/14 by WhiteAlice because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 16 2014 @ 08:51 PM
a reply to: WhiteAlice

There is 1 media giant the currently eclipses all others: Facebook. This is where ideas in America get shared.

I saw an article, may have been on ATS, where one of the big concerns about Facebook is how its structure tends to push you further and further into like mindedness.

I am not a believer in a "silver bullet" type approach to problem solving. But this is pretty close to "the silver bullet". Remove Facebook, however, and the problem is still there. You have more of what you like thrown at you via Google Adsense and other ad engines, decreasing your exposure to that which is less savory. Articles, songs, books, and movies "recommended for you" based on your own usage history.

i can honestly see how our individual viewpoints continue to be distilled down, driving the polarization.

posted on Jun, 16 2014 @ 09:23 PM
Here is the link to the thread mentioned by bigfatfurrytexan

How there is a trend with large internet services like facebook and advertising groups promoting this polarization is one factor that first came to mind.

posted on Jun, 16 2014 @ 09:55 PM
There was a time when half of religious conservatives were registered as Democrats. Those days are long gone, and the rift is spreading from the holy-rollers to mainline protestants and even Catholics. You can now identify an American churchgoer's political stance based on what denomination they attend. That has been common in other countries for centuries, but it's new in America.

Can you be a democrat and oppose abortion?
Can you be a republican believe in global warming?

The last great presidents of each party were famous line-crossers. Now, neither would be welcome in either party.

The time for talk is almost done.

posted on Jun, 16 2014 @ 10:15 PM
I'm wondering how much events over the past 2 decades have helped with this (and of course the media reporting it too).

I'm thinking (dangerous, I know), starting with the Gore/W. Bush election having the supreme court having to decide, then 9/11, the Iraqi war.

Then we get to the W. Bush / Kerry election. Seemed that people by that time were more polarized that I have seen my entire life by that point.

Since Obama took office, that polarization seems even more apparent, with even more events: Obamacare, Sandy Hook, government shutdown, Syria, the Ukraine......

During this time, it seems that people have become even more polarized than ever, and there always seems to be a new event just around the corner to keep it that way.

posted on Jun, 16 2014 @ 10:26 PM
I wish I could give this thread more flags, and give extra stars for the points brought up here.

This is exactly what they wanted! A population at war with each other is easier to control, and doesn't pose a risk. They planned this, and we fell right into their trap. The same people are behind both political parties. The people at the top don't buy into the two party nonsense, they created, it for our benefit to control us. It is an illusion. They let us think we are voting for one ideal over the other. They keep us divided by shoving the supposed beliefs and policies of a particular politician with a particular party, on the less important issues i.e. abortion, gay marriage, but if you pay attention, they all agree on the major issues that affect everyone and is good for them, but bad for the people.

Added for clarification: I am not trying to trivialize the importance that abortion and gay marriage has on individuals, it does impact many people lives but those issues do not threaten our nation as a whole such the loss of rights and economic collapse.

posted on Jun, 16 2014 @ 10:36 PM
How about NRA membership, that had been stagnant for years. It has... tripled since Obama took office. While the NRA itself has been working to increase the polarization of American viewpoints, so have the NRA's opponents.

No hunter I know today is a Democrat. Again, when I was a kid, the majority of rural and southern US was. But all that changed, climaxing in the 1996 election. That was the year my home county became red, for the first time since the Civil War.

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