What’s Important?

Media, citizens, and politicians seem to disagree about what is important. Psychological tendencies to over-estimate the similarity of others to one’s self means that the public and politicians are quite poor at estimating what the public thinks, and as a result, what government should do.

Emotionally Polarized

Disagreement is the core of politics. If everyone agreed, we would have little societal need for campaigns, elections, or any other democratic institution. But the increasing divisiveness of politics is worrisome. Why do we seem to disagree so much and feel that disagreement so strongly? New research offers some answers.

Trusting Government to Kill, Despite Distrusting Government

The public holds views of government activity that largely appear incoherent. This is problematic if we expect democracy to function as a direct translation of public views into policy, but can work if elites can be trusted to act in a more coherent fashion than the public they represent. Unfortunately, we don't trust our government.

When Our Partisan Attachments Let Politicians Fail

The fiscal cliff is a prime example of political leaders shirking their responsibilities – failing to debate and make enlightened policies – and taking advantage of our psychological predispositions toward partisan attachment for their own gain.

Means, Motive, and Opportunity

If crime is a function of means, motive, and opportunity, then a comprehensive policy response—rather than narrowly targeted policies (gun control) with little public support—seems to be in order.

Do We Really Want Political Compromise?

With the fiscal cliff debate looming large in Washington and on the national news agenda, there is increasing talk of the importance of political compromise. This call for putting aside differences and getting past polarization is, of course, nothing new. But is compromise what we really want?

No Politics at the Dinner Table?

For those with politically compatible social networks, holiday dinner offers a great time for uncontroversial bashing of political opponents. For those who find themselves surrounded by relations with different views from their own, political discussion can be thoroughly unpleasant. Here are five pointers for surviving political disagreement at Thanksgiving dinner.

What Do We See in the Electoral Map?

Some psychoanalysts believe that Rorschach tests tell us about what is going on in our minds and what you see in two different maps of the 2012 election says a lot about how you perceive American polarization.

Finding Common Ground in Divisive Times

We often think that the other side in a political debate is trying to destroy America, or at least offering a dangerous alternative to our own views of the political good. Why do we think these things and what can we do about it?

Thinking Fast and Slow in Crisis Politics

The attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya has been the subject of considerable political conversation. Media coverage of the attack, and the ensuing response by the candidates, missed an interesting story about how people think about low-information incidents like the attack in Benghazi.

Public Opinion, Not Just an American Phenomenon

Recent protests across the world in response to an anti-Islamic internet video make clear that everyone around the world has opinions and those opinions matter – not just in their home country but everyone on earth. There is considerable worry about the polarized climate in contemporary American politics, but the polarization of global opinions is a far greater concern.

The Ephemeral Impact of Violent Events

Why don’t violent events change public attitudes toward guns? Popular wisdom, of various kinds, suggests opinions should change. Research on the nature of opinions suggests otherwise.

TSA Moderately Liked, Despite Everything

How could an agency subject to consistently negative publicity and that seems to be loathed by nearly everyone who travels possibly be viewed in a positive light by most Americans?

In Nothing We Trust

What has happened to Americans’ trust? While some might be quick to infer meaningful explanations for declining support in each of these institutions—that television has become too uncivilized or Congress to ineffective or public schools too expensive—such a summary is probably inadequate.

Wisconsin Means Little

The scientific consensus on the Wisconsin recall election is that it means little for national politics. But what, if anything, does it say about psychology?

Parties Divided?

For polarization to occur, individuals have to develop more extreme views over the course of their lives or new generations have to hold more extreme and divided political viewpoints than earlier generations, or both.

Fallen Soldiers, Declining Support for War

Public support for the end goals of military conflict – often grand notions of peace, democracy, freedom, security, and so forth – must ultimately come to terms with the costs of war, found in dollars and, more importantly, in bodies.

The Pretense of Polarization

So-called “social issues” are often seen as the bread and butter of political polarization: at any one time, large portions of the American electorate are supportive of them while similarly large portions are opposed. On same-sex marriage at least, polarization this is not.

Federalism Internalized?

A poll released this past week by the Pew Research Center finds that (1) there is a growing gap in public perceptions of federal, state, and local governments and (2) there are major partisan divides in these views. What should we make of these data?

Lies, Damned Lies, and Genetics Statistics

The challenge of determining whether one thing causes another is the mantra of statistics classes, but human frailty at inferring causation makes assessing potential causes difficult.

All Politics Is Genetic?

New evidence suggests political opinions are influenced by our genetics.

Born That Way: Do Our Genes Determine Our Politics?

A search is underway for a genetic basis of political ideology and behavior. Despite the efforts and media hype, it is unclear what’s been found. Are we born liberal and conservative?

Misinformation on the Mind

Death panels, socialism, the end of Medicare. Misinformation about health care is abundant, and that isn’t the only area where U.S. politics churns up a lot of misperceptions. Who’s to blame when we get the facts wrong?

Has Health Care Polarized Voters?

The puzzling thing about the apparent divide in Americans' opinions about health care reform is that people are actually not divided about health care reform.

American Ephebiphobia

Culture is obsessed with youth: beauty treatments curb the signs of aging, literature evokes the innocence of youth, and young love is glorified for its lack of complication. But views of youths themselves tend to be negative and ephebiphobic: we see young people as threatening, ignorant, lazy, and disengaged. What’s the deal with that?

Do You Trust the Supreme Court?

With the nation’s highest court deciding one of the most important legal cases in recent history, it is no surprise that it is making headlines. Despite a deep divide in public opinion over health care, the public sees the nine justices charged with making the final call on the ACA as a trusted institution. Do you trust the Court to make that decision? And should you?

Strong and Weak Opinions Define (Republican) Primaries

Most news about the 2012 Republican primaries has focused on which candidates are faring well in which states. This focus on the levels of support for each of the Republican candidates misses a critically important part of those opinions and the larger primary election process —something that social psychologists call attitude strength.