Thursday, November 19, 2020

A New American Pastime: Federico on Political Tribalism

Headshot of Dr. Christopher Federico
This election season has shown the increase in tribalism in politics, where there is a strong divide along partisan lines. In recent years politics have been treated increasingly more like sports. Americans obsess over political updates, commentary, and the bashing of their political rivals. Christopher Federico, PhD, professor in the Departments of Political Science and Psychology at the University of Minnesota, says that “human beings derive a lot of meaning and guidance and esteem from being members of groups,” in an NBC Boston article titled, “America's (New) Pastime: Political Fanaticism.” Over the past twenty to thirty years, partisanship has increased and so too has the feelings of negativity of the opposing party. These feelings lead to individuals struggling to cooperate with members of the other party as well as a warped sense of reality. Federico expands on this saying, “we want to see our group in the most positive light possible…So we kind of ignore information that doesn't make their party look good.”

While voters typically choose party over policy, Federico notes “you can get Democrats to take positions on certain issues that are actually conservative if they believe that party leaders or their party, in general, has adopted that position,” as they don’t have time to form a strong opinion, instead of looking to their party leaders for guidance.

Despite an increase in political engagement, there is a downside as Americans struggle to find a common ground with those that hold opposing views.

Composed by Flora Pollack, communications assistant.