Can Independents Be a Bridge Over Our Partisan Divide?

Katie R. Ochoa

It has lengthy been set up that our media usage and circle of good friends can have an exterior influence on our specific political opinions and views. Voters nowadays are not so much shaped by news as the news is shaped for them. In a cafeteria-fashion format, we consume information from a personalised menu that, in addition to informing us, satisfies our appetite for reinforcing our specific beliefs, friendships and politics. As a result, liberal, moderate and conservative voters just about dwell in substitute realities.

To much better recognize that marriage, Eric Hedberg from Abt Associates and I surveyed Democratic, Republican and independent registered voters in Arizona about their political persuasion, own networks and media consumption habits. In Arizona, approximately 1-third of voters are registered Democrats, one particular-3rd are registered Republicans, and just one-third are independents. We required to examine how the interaction of news and social networks impacts voters in their collecting and discussion of political similar data.

Our conclusions exhibit that independents have social networks that are structurally various from all those of partisans. Specially, we found that equally Democratic and Republican respondents had been additional likely to commonly communicate about politics with independents than with associates of the opposing occasion. Likewise, a greater percentage of equally Democrats and Republicans report obtaining an unbiased in their social community than they do a member of the opposing celebration.


We also gathered knowledge on media consumption and found proof that independents may well moderate general partisan media consumption by way of social networks by sharing political information in dialogue with customers of both functions. To evaluate media use, political news resources had been scored on a continuum of left to appropriate based on the use variations between sturdy Republicans and powerful Democrats. The scored resources ranged from The New York Instances on the liberal end of the spectrum to Fox Information on the conservative conclusion. The most exciting outcomes ended up for Republican respondents: The research showed that when Republicans with mainly Republican pals scored the most conservative on the media-use scale, Republicans with impartial friends scored typical, suggesting a moderating function by their independent good friends.

Independents were being not only repeated discussion associates with each Democrats or Republicans but they had been also a lot less probably to close friendships above disagreements with them. Younger Democrats have been the group most probable to stop a friendship above a political dispute. This is notably interesting because in our research, Democrats as a team ended up a great deal a lot less probably than Republicans as a group to regularly talk about politics with unbiased good friends. When this is not definitive evidence that cross-cutting conversations with independents increase tolerance for unique views, it does offer you some guidance for the notion that partisans who interact with people who belong to distinct teams may be fewer invested in shielding the ideological homogeneity of their networks by terminating interactions over such disagreements.

While previous study shows that men and women with extremely polarized views are considerably less possible to explore politics with those people who maintain opposing sights, our investigate exhibits that partisans continue to explore politics with independents. As these kinds of, independents might quite well be the essential to bridging the political divide by moderating the sights of fully commited Democrats and Republicans and, in carrying out so, growing the strengths linked with cross-chopping discussions, like enhanced tolerance for the sights of other folks, skill to accurately evaluate whether info about politics is true, and decreased likelihood of relying purely on partisanship for voting decisions.

In short, our findings provide some hope that numerous social networks can average media usage, specifically for Republicans. Though algorithms and written content filters could make it considerably less very likely that individuals are exposed to varied information sources online, numerous social networks may possibly be in a position, at minimum to some diploma, to counteract the consequences of technological kinds.

And endeavours to stimulate partisans to interact far more with independents would build on an rising political dynamic: As the variety of Americans who determine as Democrats or Republicans has diminished above the previous two a long time, independents and unaffiliated voters have grown in number to encompass more than 40 per cent of the electorate.

So what could be completed to bring partisans and independents jointly in discussion? Nearby media can make a concerted effort and hard work to access out to independents in their news protection, like assembling focus groups and conducting interviews with independents on essential issues much too frequently, the media handles policymaking and elections only through the lens of the two main events. Similarly, elected and other regional government officials can target outreach to independent voters through equally on the web and facial area-to-face community forums of general public participation. Whichever methods are attempted, it seems risk-free to say that most of the voters would welcome anything at all we can do to draw Us residents out of the different political realities so a lot of now dwell in.


Governing‘s viewpoint columns replicate the views of their authors and not always people of Governing‘s editors or management.

Thom Reilly

A professor in the School of Public Affairs at Arizona State College, a previous chancellor of the Nevada Technique of Greater Education and a former county manager of Clark County, Nev.

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