This resource list contains HxA tools, blog posts, and podcast episodes on the topic of political polarization. In addition, we are also sharing a curated TED talk playlist that you may find helpful. We encourage you to share these materials with friends and family and use them in your classes and on your campuses to generate thoughtful, nuanced conversation about the issue.
Political polarization – the vast and growing gap between ideological groups like Republicans and Democrats – has become a defining feature of modern American life. As the Pew Research Center put it, “Americans have rarely been as polarized as they are today.”
Polarization is affecting Americans on both sides of the political aisle. Pew’s research surrounding the 2020 election shows that “a month before the election, roughly eight-in-ten registered voters in both camps said their differences with the other side were about core American values, and roughly nine-in-ten – again in both camps – worried that a victory by the other would lead to ‘lasting harm’ to the United States.”
While many surveys confirm these findings, there is hope: As partisan as this election was, Pew also found that “overwhelming majorities of both Trump (86%) and Biden (89%) supporters surveyed this fall said that their preferred candidate, if elected, should focus on addressing the needs of all Americans, ‘even if it means disappointing some of his supporters.’”
We hope these materials will lead to deeper understanding and spark conversation about the state of political polarization today.
TED Talk Playlist
Tools and Resources
- “Purple” Film and Discussion Guide – PURPLE tells the story of everyday Americans with opposing viewpoints addressing their differences head-on and discovering the concerns and humanity that lie behind each other’s positions. The accompanying Discussion Guide provides tools and exercises to host a screening of PURPLE and lead a meaningful conversation about it afterwards.
- OpenMind – A free, psychology-based educational platform designed to depolarize communities and foster mutual understanding across differences.
- How to Navigate Moral Disagreements – These strategies summarize how to approach moral disagreements in constructive ways. They can be used to build mutual understanding, depolarize issues, and have more productive conversations.
- How to Create a Political Classroom – This guide draws from educational research to provide practical guidance on how to create, structure, and teach in a political classroom. By openly having political conversations, students can achieve mutual understanding and reduce polarization.
- Living Room Conversations – An organization that facilitates structured conversations to create connection between people despite their differences, and even identify areas of common ground and shared understanding.
- On Constructive Disagreement – A list of materials on the topic of constructive disagreement.
- Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape, by Sean Stevens
- Partisan Dehumanization in American Politics, by Sean Stevens
- A Rhetoric of Common Values, by Erec Smith
- Are Misperceptions of Certainty Making Political Discussions Difficult?, by Brett Mercier
- Why Conservatives and Liberals are Not Experiencing the Same Pandemic, by Luke Conway
- To Tease Out Heterogeneity and Combat Polarization, Make Some Topics More Controversial, by Musa al-Gharbi
- The Polarizing Effects of Online Partisan Criticism: Evidence from Two Experiments, by Sean Stevens
- Gut Check: The Psychology of Partisan Stereotyping, by Doug Ahler and Guarav Sood
- Reducing Political Polarization Through Campus Dialogues, by Matt Burgess and Jeremiah Osborne-Gowey
- Julian Zelizer – Polarization and US History. Julian Zelizer is an historian at Princeton University and contributor to CNN and The Atlantic. He is the co-author of “Fault Lines: A History of the United States since 1974,” which details the history of political polarization.
- Norm Ornstein – U.S. Politics, Partisanship and Tribalism. Norm Ornstein is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He has written and co-written several books about gridlock and partisanship in the American political system.
- Robert Talisse – Overdoing Democracy. Robert Talisse, the W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University, discusses democratic theory and his latest book Overdoing Democracy: Why We Must Put Politics in Its Place. He argues that we spoil certain social goods if we spend too much time and effort in the arena of politics and elevate political allegiances above other commitments.
- Tony McAleer – The Cure for Hate. Tony McAleer is the co-founder of Life After Hate, a non-profit organization whose mission to help people leave hate groups and to counter hate on social media without censorship. A former organizer for the White Aryan Resistance (WAR), he served as a recruiter for WAR and proprietor of a white-supremacist voice messaging center. In 2019, he testified before the U.S. Congress’s Civil Rights and Civil Liberties subcommittee on confronting white supremacy and the adequacy of the Federal response.
- Teresa Bejan – Mere Civility. Is civility really a virtue, and how much civility do we really need? Teresa Bejan, an associate professor of political theory at the University of Oxford, answers this question and discusses her book, Mere Civility: Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration,
- Angie Maxwell – The Long Southern Strategy. Angie Maxwell is associate professor of Southern Studies at the University of Arkansas. She also chairs the Diane D. Blair Center of Southern Politics, which administers national polls of political attitudes that oversample residents of the Southern U.S.
- James Poniewozik – Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America. James Poniewozik is the chief television critic for the New York Times. In this episode he discusses his recent book, “Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America,” which was listed as one of the 10 best books of the year by Publishers Weekly, one of the 50 notable works of nonfiction in 2019 by The Washington Post, and a notable book of the year by the New York Times Book Review.
- Christopher Federico, The Psychology of Political Behavior. Christopher Federico is a political psychologist with joint appointments in psychology and political science at the University of Minnesota. He discusses a paper in which he arguse that people do not simply become liberal or conservative based on the strength of their psychological needs for security and certainty.
We’re always trying to share more relevant materials. If you have suggestions for materials on the topic of political polarization that would be a good fit for this list, please email us at email@example.com.