The Polarization of Political Beliefs

Brooke Wiese, Insider Staff

Throughout history, humans have thrived by building civilizations, constructing advanced political systems, sharing ideas, and collaborating. We have now formed countless nations, civilizations, and forms of government to facilitate living in the modern world. However, every group of people has their share of disagreements, especially when it comes to democracy. Not every group can find common ground so easily, which has often resulted in the formation of political parties, particularly in the United States.

The two main political parties in the U.S. are Republican and Democrat. The Republican party traditionally favors the idea of small government, strong military, gun rights, and fewer taxes. Democrats, on the other hand, traditionally tend to favor large government, small military, strict gun control, and large taxes. Although both parties are shifting between progressives and moderates, these political parties have had their share of political disagreements since their formation in early U.S. history. But with the rise of technology and digital media, these parties have separated more than ever.

America is in the aftermath of a hyperpartisan presidential election in which people not only disagree with those on the other side, they actively hate them,” stated Rani Molla from Vox.com. “Different parties are operating in what seem like different realities, with different sets of facts or at least completely different reactions to those facts. Social media seems to be making a bad situation worse.”

Social media has especially contributed to this problem due to their “filter bubbles” – an algorithm that shows people only what they want to see. “One of the most notable developments of the past decade has been the shift in audience preference away from traditional mass media to digital sources,” said J. Clement from Statistica.com. “In the United States, this transition has significantly changed how people follow politics and the type of information they access. As many Americans are now getting live news updates on their social media feeds, these platforms are becoming increasingly powerful political tools.” Many claim that the widespread participation in social media has essentially “brainwashed” people into leaning toward a particular political party by feeding them fake news and only information that they agree with.

Many also claim that political polarization is a result of candidate manipulation. Political candidates will often promote extreme policies to win the support of voters, which in turn creates political conflict of its own. “If a [House or Senate] seat is safe for the party, this means that the only election that matters is the primary,” according to Yale News. “That’s what produces polarization: The primary voters are pulling candidates toward the fringes. If you ignore your party’s fringe, then you’ll get knocked off in the primary. It creates incentives to demonize opponents and embrace extreme policies.” Some have also argued that many politicians’ views have become too extreme out of desperation for radical votes. It is these kinds of radical acts that cause violent disagreement between political parties.

Despite political tension and disagreement, all voters hope to achieve a better future for the United States, and Americans hope that political divisions will soon be resolved once and for all.