Political polarization an unnecessary problem

Published 7:13 pm Wednesday, March 6, 2019


The Advocate-Messenger

Political polarization is a bigger problem in Boyle County than in most counties around the U.S., according to reporting from The Atlantic this week.

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A study of political prejudice commissioned by the magazine found — no surprise here — growing mistrust of “others” and increasingly bulletproof bubbles of political homogeneity across the country.

Boyle County residents appear to be more politically “prejudiced” against their “political others” than about 68 percent of U.S. counties, according to the study. More extreme prejudice was found in counties to the north of Boyle, while counties in south central Kentucky appear to be less prejudiced.

The prejudice cuts both ways — Republicans and Democrats in Boyle County are both more likely to be prejudiced against the other than in most other counties in the U.S.

Kentucky’s capital is home to the worst polarization in the state: Franklin County is among the worst 10 percent of counties in the nation for political prejudice, according to the study.

To complete the study, the polling and analytics firm PredictWise conducted a 2,000-person poll to identify what demographic factors tended to predict political polarization the best. PredictWise then used those factors to project an estimated polarization level for every county in the nation.

Whether or not such a method truly represents Boyle County’s actual political polarization, the study’s broader findings are worth pondering.

“In general, the most politically intolerant Americans, according to the analysis, tend to be whiter, more highly educated, older, more urban and more partisan themselves,” The Atlantic reported.

Some of the most tolerant Americans by contrast are those who live in diverse communities, where they interact daily with people who hold different views.

In other words, it’s a lot easier to hate “the others” when you don’t know who they are.

In reality, Americans of all political stripes have more things in common than they disagree about. On many issues — even supposedly controversial ones — clear majorities of Republicans and Democrats agree on the same solutions.

But the political bubbles we live in these days have allowed us to imagine that people who should be our friends and neighbors are bogeymen out to get us.

The moral of the story is we all need to stop talking about people who are different and start doing things with people who are different.

Turn off your TV, especially if it’s on a channel that regularly tells you Democrats, Republicans or any broad category of people are generally bad.

Spend less time on Facebook and Twitter, which often function as bubble hardeners by exposing you only to content you like and agree with in order to sell ads.

Volunteer with a local nonprofit where you’ll regularly interact with people outside of your political corner. Do something fun or just have a non-political conversation with that family member you usually avoid because they like (insert the name of that politician you love to hate here).

Stop believing the lie that we’re locked in a war with the others, and start getting to know them instead.