A telling article in “The Hill” this week provides hard data on the tendency of voters to make decisions based on their party allegiance. Though most of us claim objectivity, Mark Mellman cites studies that indicate quite the opposite. In blind tests, respondents reacted differently to identical proposals as a result of whether they were identified as Republican or Democratic policies.
“Thus,” Mellman writes, “policy positions were not driving partisanship, but rather partisanship was driving policy positions. Partisanship was helping determine what voters thought was right.”
In “Partisanship: A Powerful Drug,” Mellman argues that it is not only opinions that are shaped by one’s party affiliaion, but also determination of facts. Both Democrats and Republicans are guilty of this type of hyper-subjectivity. In the age of “fake news” and “alternative facts” it is becoming more difficult to communicate on issues because we cannot even agree on the circumstances and events that surround them.
Toward the end of the article, Mellman questions whether people’s perspectives are truly distorted by their politics, or whether they are willfully distorting facts in order to further their ideological agenda. In other words, is it that we are not able to see clearly, or we are not willing to clearly report what we have seen if it is not in keeping with how we would like it to look?
Either way, the metaphor of narcotics is fitting in that our our ability to communicate is severely hampered, and this partisan polarization is becoming an increasing hazard to the healthy functioning of our society.
To read the article, click here or the photo above.
Marc Erlbaum, Contributor