May 15, 2023
The Polarization Research Lab announces the launch of the Library of Partisan Animosity, an information and learning hub for the most important academic work on partisan animosity–the study of what drives people to like the political party they identify with and dislike the other party, and the consequences of that gap.
Housed on the Lab’s website, the Library comprises summaries of the most important academic work related to political polarization over the past 20 years. One of the Lab’s chief goals is to provide transparent and accessible research and information about topics of partisan animosity, including affective polarization (the divide in how people feel about the political party they identity with compared to the other party) as well as attitudes toward social trust, democratic norms, and political violence.
A breakdown in the dissemination of political science research to practitioners, media, and citizens often occurs due to a lack of a centralized hub, inaccessible academic language, and journal articles living behind expensive paywalls. The Library of Partisan Animosity is an unprecedented effort to bridge this gap by creating a free resource that is easy to navigate and clearly translates the key research and findings. With the most cited and innovative work on partisan animosity residing in one location, users can for the first time follow the trajectory of the scientific work on these topics and, importantly, discern where the gaps in our understanding of partisan discontent still lie.
The Library of Partisan Animosity will organize and summarize 100+ papers on political polarization this year, allowing anyone with interest to freely access the learning from this research. We expect the library to be particularly useful for those without regular institutional access to academic work, including K-12 educators, the media, and practitioners. The Library can help users explore questions such as: What drives political polarization? How does one’s identity affect partisan views? Does this animosity translate to support for undemocratic actions?
The summaries are written by academics and advanced graduate students with deep knowledge of American politics and research methodology. While academics have studied partisanship for decades, the literature on partisan animosity over the past 10 years has expanded, in large part due to advances in experimental design and survey methodology. The Library of Partisan Animosity summaries strive to help readers understand the strengths and limitations of the experiments and methods used in the papers.
Each Library summary includes:
- Explanations of the contribution that the paper makes in our understanding of partisan animosity
- The key findings of the study
- Strengths and weaknesses of the methods and data used
- Good research “best practices” checks
- The ability to filter by year and topic (tags)
- Definitions of key terms
The first five summaries of seminal work in the field of partisan animosity are now available, and we will continue to add to the Library over the coming months.
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Sean Westwood at Sean.J.Westwood@dartmouth.edu.
Announcing the America’s Political Pulse Dashboard
May 8, 2023
The Polarization Research Lab has launched a new visual dashboard for understanding partisan animosity in America. For the first time, anyone can view accurate and up-to-date polling on the state of polarization and democracy in America just by visiting the free and public PRL website.
Using data from the Lab’s weekly tracking survey of 42,000 responses (and counting) since October 2022, the dashboard provides gauges on:
- Levels of polarization over time by party and state
- Attitudes toward trust (in institutions and elected leaders)
- Support for democratic values
- Support for violations of democratic norms
- Support for political violence
Viewers can easily track trends in these measures across states in map form, by total count, or by party in easy-to-read visualizations.
With our publicly available data and new dashboard, PRL hopes to empower citizens–voters, students, practitioners, members of the media, and elected officials–with the information needed to understand the status of American democracy from the national to local level.
The dashboard includes scores and rankings of states for levels of polarization and support for democratic norm violations. In the future, as we collect more data, we will provide this detail down to the county level, making the dashboard an invaluable resource for community groups and local leaders seeking to understand their constituents.
Existing surveys that reach a large number of Americans only do so as incremental points in time, and small polls often fail to interview sufficient numbers of respondents to generalize the findings. As a result, citizens, the media, and our elected officials respond to this piecemeal data, which does not accurately reflect Americans’ attitudes, leaving us with messaging and information that at best is inaccurate and at worst aggravates polarization.
America’s Political Pulse fills this critical gap in the data available on partisan animosity by collecting daily responses over 3+ years. This level of granularity allows PRL for the first time to examine the effects on polarization and democracy of political moments in real time, such as the midterm elections, court rulings, and the indictment of President Trump.
Having consistent, accurate data is essential to understanding the strengths of American democracy as well as the areas of weakness, and is the only viable first step in identifying the causes of partisan polarization and developing possible solutions.
For more information about America’s Political Pulse or to schedule an interview, please contact Lab Director Sean Westwood, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Polarization Research Lab Launches Interactive Data Explorer to Visualize Survey Data in Real Time
February 15, 2023 – The Polarization Research Lab launches its Data Explorer for visualizing the America’s Political Pulse survey data. The dashboard is free to explore on the Lab’s website, where you can also download all of our publicly available data.
America’s Political Pulse is the Lab’s signature survey and the most comprehensive data collection effort to date to track and monitor trends in partisan animosity in America. Data collection began in mid-2022, and it is already one of the largest polling projects on partisan animosity ever conducted.
One of the Lab’s core goals is providing free and accessible research and information about partisan animosity in America. Much of the academic work and important learning about issues of partisan animosity–including affective polarization, social trust, and support of political violence–is never adapted and made available for the public. The launch of the Data Explorer is a critical contribution to those seeking to understand and address political polarization with scientific data.
The explorer allows users to interact with America’s Political Pulse survey data in real time. Users can analyze and visualize data pulled from any of the various survey questions the Lab collects each week. Using the web interface, users with or without any technical background can quickly explore questions about animosity and polarization within the survey respondents. In addition to tracking trends over time, users can compare and contrast the survey respondents based on demographic or political characteristics–such as exploring how Democrats and Republicans differ on issues such as institutional trust or perceptions of fair treatment.
Additionally, we’ve incorporated state and county level demographic data, allowing users to explore the survey data questions based on the demographic characteristics at either the state or county level.
It is our hope that the Data Explorer will be an indispensable tool for practitioners, educators, students, and media. For example, practitioners working with communities can visualize variables of interest down to the county level and tailor specific interventions. We expect that educators from high school through college will find the dashboard an indispensable pedagogical tool in helping students explore issues of polarization with the many crosstabs that can be visualized. Media and all engaged citizens will find the dashboard most helpful as a clear way to track the pulse of partisan animosity, potentially helping us all see trends as they occur in real-time.
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Sean Westwood at Sean.J.Westwood@dartmouth.edu.
About the Polarization Research Lab
The Polarization Research Lab is a cross-university research lab (Dartmouth College, University of Pennsylvania and Stanford University). The lab exists to serve as a nexus for work on affective polarization, social trust, and political violence.
New Polarization Research Lab to Identify Where Political Animosity in U.S. Comes From
The lab will create a free, interactive data dashboard that tracks polarization in real-time.
HANOVER, N.H. – August, 15 2022 – To understand where partisan animosity comes from and what can be done to address it, researchers from Dartmouth, the University of Pennsylvania, and Stanford University have teamed up to launch the Polarization Research Lab.
Survey and experimental data show that average citizens often don’t understand the political positions of their party or follow current debates in Washington. Many now hate and are willing to discriminate against those of the opposing party. Americans hold more negative views toward the political opposition than at any point in the last 50 years, with polarization spilling over into completely apolitical aspects of day-to-day life. Yet, we don’t know what is causing these changes in American society.
The nonpartisan lab will focus on three interconnected phenomena: affective polarization (or the extent to which individuals like their own party and strongly dislike the other), support for the violation of democratic norms, and support for political violence.
Consider how affective polarization might impact your behavior: would you accept your son or daughter marrying a partner of the opposing party? Would you hire someone who doesn’t share your political beliefs? How willing would you be to accept deviation from democratic norms by policymakers to advance your party’s goals?
“We’re not interested in helping Democrats or helping Republicans gain an advantage over their political rivals, our goal is to improve the state of American democracy,” says Sean Westwood, an associate professor of government at Dartmouth, who will lead the new lab. “To do this we must first understand what is causing the growth of political animosity in this country. Ultimately, I think the key to help our nation is to step back from the parties and focus on things that we all have in common.”
As part of its work, the Polarization Research Lab plans to conduct the largest survey investigation of partisan animosity in America, to date. Through 156,000 survey interviews over the next three years, the lab will track how citizen attitudes vary over time and how they correspond to the actions of federally elected officials (“elites”). This will enable the researchers to track how elite animosity causes citizen animosity, how major news events may cause citizen animosity, and how these things may work together.
The lab will merge public opinion data with elite rhetoric. To capture elite rhetoric, the lab will track and categorize all political tweets, press releases, floor speeches, and media appearances by federal elected officials, using machine learning techniques.
“Simultaneously tracking elite rhetoric and public opinion gets us closer to understanding both the causes and the effects of mass polarization. If, as we suspect, policymakers, and cable news pundits are driving dynamics in polarization, we can design interventions that change how people consume such polarizing information,” says Yphtach Lelkes, an associate professor of communication at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.
The Polarization Research Lab will make its data available to other academics, students, and the general public in real-time through a free interactive dashboard. The dashboard will allow users to select the variables that they are interested in such as finding out where polarization is highest and lowest in the U.S., by state and generate a visualization. As part of the lab’s commitment to making its information useful and accessible, plain English summaries about the lab’s work will also be available in addition to raw tabular data.
One of the lab’s objectives is to build relationships between community-based organizations, practitioners, and academics. The researchers are especially interested in engaging community organizations that work with rural citizens, veterans, and religious groups. “A lot of the work that we plan to do is going to require face to face engagement,” says Westwood. “These are complex interactions that can only be established by partnering with community organizations, so we want to not only provide information to these organizations but also build relationships that will help us conduct research.”
Westwood says, “Academics can create rigorous designs to change or lessen political animosity but it is community organizations who will need to deploy these interventions at scale.”
As part of its mission, the Polarization Research Lab plans to provide research support to community organizations and the next generation of scholars working on these issues. Through annual meetings, the lab will share its findings and strategies with leading scholars, graduate students and postdoctoral students, and community practitioners, who are working to understand and reduce partisan animosity.
“The creation of the new lab is especially timely in the aftermath of polarizing decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court and as the 2022 election season approaches,” says Shanto Iyengar, the William Robertson Coe Professor and professor of political science in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University.
The Polarization Research Lab is supported by the Charles Koch Foundation, the New Pluralists, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.