How have we become so polarized in the U.S. and what can be done to depolarize ourselves going forward?
New research published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace seeks to better understand what happens when democracies become ‘perniciously polarized’ — that’s when polarization has divided a society into two mutually antagonistic political camps, where each side sees the other as a threat to the country’s future.
For this study, researchers used data from what’s called the Variety of Democracies (V-Dem) data set that describes the state of democracy in the world covering more than 200 countries, going back more than two centuries.
They looked at what countries around the world that reached that level of polarization experienced, and whether they managed to work past it, and if they did work past it how they were able to do so.
According to that data, polarization in the United States reached the level of pernicious in 2015 and remains so today.
Earlier this year, the study’s authors published two articles summarizing its findings, one called What Happens When Democracies Become Perniciously Polarized? and the other Reducing Pernicious Polarization: A Comparative Historical Analysis of Depolarization.
One of them is Dr. Jennifer McCoy, she is Professor of Political Science at Georgia State University; and nonresident Scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in its Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program, where she focuses on political polarization and democratic resilience in the U.S. and around the world. We discuss her research in this field, and get her thoughts on how we have found ourselves perniciously polarized, and what might be done to depolarize going forward.