The Polarization Research Lab is a research group and resource hub dedicated to applying science to the study of polarization and democracy. Founded on more than a decade of research by top scholars in the field at Dartmouth College, Stanford University, and the University of Pennsylvania, PRL advances the study of partisan animosity by collecting data, testing new ideas through rigorous science, and sharing the data and findings with others. Our network includes scholars across social science disciplines, post-doctoral fellows, graduate students, and researchers around the world as well as our funders and practitioner partners.
We track polarization across America by conducting a first-of-its-kind, coordinated survey of Americans and providing that information to anyone in real-time. The Lab fields 1,000 survey interviews each week tracking affective polarization, support for democratic norm violations, and support for political violence in the United States. This allows us to look at how citizen attitudes change in response to real world events and allows us to identify any troubling changes in anti-democratic trends, which can be accessed and visualized on the Lab’s dashboard. We also work with researchers around the world through a free RFP to test hypotheses and interventions about partisan animosity to help us better understand what causes polarization and subsequently what may help reduce tensions. In the future, we will be expanding our work to Brazil, Germany, India, Israel, and Poland, which will allow us to learn if the U.S. is an outlier or if the problems in our country are endemic to democratic systems.
The Lab also provides a clearinghouse for evidence-based approaches to dealing with and understanding partisan animosity. This is particularly critical as most work is paywalled and written by academics for other academics, leaving practitioners and non-statistical experts unable to get the most from the best work. We draft briefs on work on polarization with laypersons’ language, objective credibility criteria, and open access on our Library of Partisan Animosity.
Our future projects center on understanding how and why citizens have become more polarized over time by studying the relationship between polarization of political elites and the attitudes of the public. In addition to our weekly citizen surveys, we also collect and monitor the content of elite rhetoric (in the form of tweets, floor speeches, newsletters, press releases, and television appearances of all members of Congress). Applying AI, we are categorizing this speech and will create a dashboard where citizens can track if their representatives are working for policy or merely stoking partisan conflict. We are also launching an elite-level intervention to reduce polarization aimed at candidates for office called the Pledge of Civility.