CHICAGO — The political atmosphere has made America so divided, you couldn’t pay voters to listen to the rhetoric from their opposing party, a new study finds.
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Winnipeg in Canada conducted five separate studies, hoping to determine the ideological loyalty of those who held different political positions.
In the course of one of the researchers’ experiments, various politically-divisive topics were intentionally chosen for participants to read, such as ones taking sides on gun control, abortion, same-sex marriage, elections, and drugs.
It was found that a majority of participants, regardless of whether they leaned liberal or conservative, avoided reading a statement that didn’t comport with their ideological position, even when they had the ability to gain financially from reading the statement. The participants were offered a chance to win extra money should they hear out a political rival’s opinion, but two-thirds turned down the offer.
Interestingly, the divide wasn’t just on political issues.
Participants also had a “greater desire to hear from like- versus unlike-minded others on questions such as preferred beverages (Coke vs. Pepsi), seasons (spring vs. autumn), airplane seats (aisle vs. window), and sports leagues (NFL vs. NBA),” the researchers noted.
While interpretations of these findings could run amok, the researchers attribute the results to fairly simple causes.
“People on both sides,” they observed, “indicated that they anticipated that hearing from the other side would induce cognitive dissonance.”
In other words, hearing the views of another would cause one excessive effort or frustration in trying to uphold their own views.
They also noted that exposure to different views could “undermine a sense of shared reality with the person expressing disparate views,” which could adversely affect relationships.
The study’s findings were published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.