American political parties have a long history of being nice to one another, but it’s about to get a whole lot more friendly, according to a new study.
Political scientists at The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Wisconsin at Madison (UW) say that parties are no longer so hostile when it comes to the other side of the political aisle, but they are still getting nasty.
In their new book, Politics for the 21st Century, political scientists Matthew Yglesias and Alexei Gogol discuss how they have tracked political parties’ interactions with each other over time.
They say that as the 2016 election draws closer, it becomes increasingly difficult for politicians to pretend to be neutral and maintain a positive, friendly tone toward each other.
Yglesides and Gogul, who are both professor of political science at UCLA, and co-authors David A. Green, a professor of politics at UW, examined the interactions between Republican and Democratic presidential candidates during the 2016 presidential election.
They focused on the three presidential candidates: Trump, Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders.
The authors looked at how each candidate’s interactions with the other candidates were portrayed in media, in social media and on the campaign trail.
They found that while Trump and Cruz were depicted as being less than complimentary toward one another on social media, they were viewed as more friendly towards one another than either Trump or Sanders.
But that didn’t last for long.
By the time of the 2020 election, the authors found, the two candidates were viewed equally on social and in-person media.YGlesias told Mashable that he and Gugol were inspired by a 2015 study they conducted that showed how media portrayals of political rivals and friends can influence attitudes toward them.
“The results of that study showed that, when people were shown images of a political rival, they tended to feel less negative toward that rival,” he said.
“The people who had that negative feeling about that rival showed more positive views toward that same rival than people who didn’t see that person at all.”
Ygleas said he and the other authors also looked at whether people view Democratic and Republican politicians as being equally as friendly as Democratic and Republicans.
“It’s interesting that we see that there is some overlap in how these people are perceived in terms of being less friendly toward each one of the other,” he told Mashables.
“So I would guess that people are more inclined to be perceived as more like the Republican and less like the Democrat.”
While the researchers did not find that the two parties are less friendly with one another because of this perceived bias, the findings do show that political parties do get into more heated exchanges.
“When they are, you know, the most negative party, you’re going to see the most hostile interactions,” Ygleos said.
Y glesias added that the political parties themselves are not the problem, but rather the other party’s actions.
“They’re just doing it in a way that’s very, very different than how you would expect them to behave if they were really neutral,” he explained.
“And that’s really a problem.”
Y gleasias added, however, that the parties’ behavior has also been shown to be a problem over time, particularly in recent decades.
“What I’ve found is that over time the parties have gotten more polarized, and that’s been true for the last 40 years or so,” he observed.
“There has been an enormous rise in partisan polarization, and we’re in a post-Cold War era.”
That’s when the Cold War came along, and the Democrats have been pretty much, well, Democrats,” he added.”
It’s the other.””
But it’s not the party.
It’s the other.”