Strengthening Democracy Challenge
Interventions that significantly reduced anti-democratic attitudes, support for political violence, and partisan animosity:
Interventions that significantly reduced anti-democratic attitudes and partisan animosity:
Interventions that significantly reduced support for political violence and partisan animosity:
Interventions that significantly reduced partisan animosity:
Out of 252 submissions we received, these 25 interventions were selected for testing.
Correcting Overestimates of Opposing Partisans’ Willingness to Break Democratic Norms
Alia Braley; Gabriel Lenz; Dhaval Adjodah; Hossein Rahnama; Alex Pentland
University of California, Berkeley; University of California, Berkeley; MIT Media Lab; Toronto Metropolitan University; MIT Connection Science
Participants are told that most people do not know much about the other party. They are then asked to guess what people from the other party believe when it comes to actions that undermine how democracy works (e.g., using violence to block laws, reducing the number of polling stations to help the other party, or not accepting the results of elections if they lose). Participants answer eight such questions. After each, they receive the correct answer – that is, they are told what the other party actually believes, based on recent surveys. The answers make clear the other party does not support actions that undermine democracy. They thus learn the other party supports maintaining key elements of democracy.
Exploring the Nuanced Partisan Overlap Between Political Parties
Victor Allis; Erez Yoeli; Sara Gifford
ActiVote; MIT Sloan School of Management; ActiVote
Participants answer questions about views on eight policies (e.g., over the counter birth control, background checks for gun buying, legalization of marijuana). After each policy question, they are shown the high overlap in the views of Democrats and Republicans. At the end they are shown the average sizeable overlap across other issues which is 69%. They thus learn that the parties share a lot of views.
Democratic System Justification
Aaron Kay; John T. Jost; Daniela Goya-Tocchetto
Duke University; New York University; Duke University
Participants read an article about how the American system is unique in that people do not turn on one another, instead they stay faithful to the principles of civility and respect even during economic recession, a pandemic, or natural disaster. The article notes people debate and have to deal with media outlets that inflate their differences, but they retain faith in the system and trust in each other. Participants thus learn that the majority of Americans remain committed to values of mutual respect.
Correcting Inaccurate Group Meta-Perceptions Reduces Polarization
Jeffrey Lees; Mina Cikara
Princeton University; Harvard University
Participants read about actions their party might take to gain an electoral advantage (e.g., drawing voting districts to their advantage). They then estimate how much the other party would oppose those actions e. Next, they learn that the average member of the other party typically is less opposed than most would estimate. Participants thus learn that the other party is not as against their party as they may have thought.
Using Expressed Learning Goals to Overcome Partisan Animosity
Hanne Collins; Hayley Blunden; Charles Dorison; Kara Luo; Molly Moore; Julia Minson
Harvard University; American University Kogod School of Business; Northwestern University; Harvard University; Harvard University; Harvard University
Participants exchange messages with someone from the other party who is seeking an open-minded exchange. The messages involve explaining why the participant and the person from the other party have the positions that they do (e.g., on taxes, income). Participants thus engage with an open-minded member of the other party to exchange views in a productive manner.
Beliefs about Cross-Partisan Empathy
Luiza Almeida Santos; Jamil Zaki
Stanford University; Stanford University
Participants read about the benefits of empathizing with people with different political beliefs. For instance, they read that empathizing with the other political side (e.g., someone with different beliefs on gun control) leads one to be more persuasive and liked, and that it builds consensus. They then write about how empathy can be useful in competitive contexts and how they could be more empathetic going forward in their own lives. They thus learn about how empathy with those from the other political side can be beneficial.
Thinking of Friends From Other Party De-Polarizes
University of Pennsylvania
Participants are asked to think about one person from the other party that they like and respect (and if none, then one they view most positively). They then are asked to reflect on and write about why they feel that way about the person. They answer a question about who the person is (e.g., friend, family member, co-worker), and how close they are to the person. Participants thus think about an individual positive example of the other party.
The Road Not Taken: Reflection on Counterfactual Selves as a Means to Reduce Animosity and Violence
Nathan Ballantyne; Jared Celniker; Mertcan Güngör; John Michael Kelly; Shiri Spitz
Fordham University; University of California, Irvine; University of California, Irvine; University of California, Irvine; University of California, Irvine
Participants are asked about their views on various issues (e.g., abortion, gun control, immigration). They then answer the same questions but are asked to imagine their life had been different on each issue (e.g., raised in a Christian fundamentalist tradition, had a sister who was assaulted and became pregnant). Participants are then provided the results of their attitudes versus their attitudes under different circumstances. They are told that many opponents are good people with different environments. Participants thus learn about how the beliefs of those from the other side reflect valid experiences.
Common Identity-Based Intervention
Ali Javeed; Kimberly C. Doell; Steve Rathje; Jay Van Bavel
New York University; New York University; New York University; New York University
Participants read about how democracy has been crucial to America’s success as a leader in technology (e.g., computers, cellphones) and culture (e.g., film, music). They then read that American democracy is at risk from extreme partisanship. Participants learn that, fortunately, research shows that the vast majority of Americans support democracy, and this is a common identity of Americans. Moreover, despite perceptions to the contrary, most members of both parties like each other, disdain violence, and support the rules of democracy. Participants write about their two favorite things about being American. Participants thus learn of a common American identity and that most partisans share more in common than they think.
Strengthening Democracy With Partisan Social Norms
Participants are asked to read a fictional op-ed with real quotes and statistics. It focuses on the other party’s beliefs about democracy and violence. They learn that the leader of the other party (Biden or Trump) condemns violence and supports democratic processes (e.g., right to vote, freedom of the press). The op-ed also cites social science data about how at least 90% of the other party do not support violence or breaking the rules to help their party win. Participants are asked to summarize the argument. Participants thus learn that the other party is against violence and supportive of democracy.
Participants take part in an eight-minute befriending meditation. They listen to an audio that emphasizes treating yourself well and extending kindness to others. The audio discusses being safe, happy, healthy, and having ease of being. It suggests thinking of a loved one in the same way. It then asks respondents to think of a stranger this way (wishing them safety, happiness, health, and ease of being). Finally, it asks them to think of someone they find difficult in the same way. Respondents thus reflect on the importance of thinking positive thoughts about all beings.
Reducing Support for Partisan Violence by Questioning Efficacy
Peter Felsman; Colleen Seifert
Northern Michigan University; University of Michigan
Participants read a news article about how non-violent protests are much more effective in bringing about change than violent protests. They then answer questions about the article and are asked whether they would advise a political leader to use non-violent or violent tactics. Participants are then asked what they think of the video. Participants thus learn that using violent means to achieve political ends is an ineffective strategy.
One Nation Utah Governor Race Joint PSA
University of Utah
Participants watch a video with a Democrat and a Republican candidate who were running against each other to be governor. Each candidate emphasizes that all votes will be counted and they will honor the peaceful transfer of power. They explain that is what the county is built upon. Participants thus learn that office seekers on both sides respect democratic elections.
Using Media Trades to Incentivize Engagement With a Vivid Illustration of Contact Theory
Daniel F. Stone; David Francis; Michael Franz; Julia Minson
Bowdoin College; Bowdoin College; Bowdoin College; Harvard Kennedy School
Participants watch a commercial from England that shows people with opposing political views bonding with one another despite learning of their political disagreements. The video shows pairs of people disagreeing on climate change, feminism, and transgender identity. It shows the pairs then working together, bonding, and deciding to spend time together (to drink a beer). They thus learn how people with different political views can get along. Before watching, participants are told that if they answer questions correctly about the video, they will get to choose an article or video to share with someone from the other party.
Civity Storytelling: Expanding the Pool of People Who Matter
Malka Kopell; Palma Strand; Gina Baleria; Maya Fiorella
Civity; Civity & Creighton University; Civity & Sonoma State University; Civity & Sonoma State University
Participants watch an introductory animated video about the importance of individual stories. They then watch five videos where individuals talk about themselves and their experiences. Participants then watch another animated video about how democracy allows for different views and people, after which participants explain their takeaways. They thus are prompted to learn and think about how democracy promotes and can handle differences.
Uncovering the Psychological Roots of Political Divides
Caroline Mehl; Mylien Duong; Macrina Dieffenbach; Lauren Alpert Maurer
OpenMind; OpenMind; Facebook; OpenMind
Participants read about how our brain works and how the same information can be interpreted differently by different individuals. Participants also learn about Moral Foundation Theory, which argues that we all share the same six moral foundations when interpreting information, but use them differently on different issues (i.e., some people consider “loyalty” more, while others consider “fairness” more). Participants then read conversation on abortion and gun control from two speakers who use the same set of moral foundations overall but use different foundations on each issue. Participants thus learn that we all actually share the same set of moral foundations.
Appealing to Fear of Democratic Collapse
Katherine Clayton; Michael Tomz
Stanford University; Stanford University
Participants watch a video about countries where democracy collapsed (Venezuela, Turkey). It explains what the rulers tried to do to stay in power by using violence and violating electoral rights. The video shows scenes of chaos. It then asks whether democracy could collapse in the US, showing scenes from the January 6th Capitol insurrection. Participants then read about what they could do to protect democracy such as defending the separation of powers, endorsing compromise, and rejecting violence. Participants thus learn about the consequences if the rules of democracy are violated.
Reducing Partisan Threat Perceptions
Matthew Hall; Wayde Marsh; Levi Allen; James Kirk
University of Notre Dame; University of Notre Dame; University of Notre Dame; University of Notre Dame
Participants read about how their party is dominating American politics (e.g., controlling the three branches of government for Democrat respondents or controlling state government for Republican respondents) and their influence is likely to increase (e.g., having a growing voter base for Democrats, likely to do well in midterms for Republicans). Participants are told the country leans to their party in the foreseeable future. Participants thus may become less threatened by the other party.
A Common Economic Plight and a Common Economic Enemy
Joe Green; Nick R. Kay; Azim Shariff
The University of British Columbia; The University of British Columbia; The University of British Columbia
Participants watch a video about how economic interests unite Americans across political divides. The video points out that other than the super rich, “we are all in this together,” and the super rich share little in common with other Americans. Instead, the super rich have more in common with each other regardless of their partisanship such as life expectancy, political donations and access to elite schools. And that income inequality has increased over time. Participants then write about what they thought of the video. Participants thus learn about how they share an identity with most Americans regardless of different partisanship.
Epistemic Rescue: Leveraging Knowledge Complementaries to Reduce Political Antipathy
Evan DeFilippis; Joshua Greene
Harvard Business School; Harvard University (Psychology Department)
Participants are paired with someone from the other party and they learn a little about them. They then privately answer twelve trivia questions (e.g., about cars, food, TV). Half the questions are likely to be correctly answered by Republicans (e.g., the last name of the family on Duck Dynasty) and half are likely to be correctly answered by Democrats (e.g., Ben and Jerry ice cream flavors). After answering each privately, the participant answers again, but this time they can choose to learn what their partner from the other party answered. They thus can learn how someone from the other party can help them.
Reducing Partisan Animosity Through a Common Ground Discovery Chatbot Quiz
Brandyn Keating; Aaron Lyles; Jay Rosato
YOUnify; CommonAlly; CommonAlly
Participants answer questions (in a chat) about where they think the average Democrat and Republican fall on various issues (gun control, immigration, climate change). After each answer, they are given the correct answer from a credible source. They also are asked about and learn that more than 70% of Americans agree on various issues (concerning police, minimum wage, COVID). Participants learn that the parties are not nearly as far apart from each other than most people believe. Participants thus learn the parties are similar on many issues.
Sharing Harmful Personal Experiences Reduces Partisan Animosity
Emily Kubin; Curtis Puryear; Kurt Gray
University of Koblenz-Landau; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Participants hear from real people from the other party who explain their views come from personal experiences of suffering. For example, Republicans learn about someone who is anti-gun because his friend was murdered by someone who obtained a gun without a proper background check. Or, Democrats learn about someone who is pro-gun because one of his friends was murdered in a home invasion robbery. Participants thus learn that views from the other side reflect authentic experiences of vulnerability and suffering.
Reducing False Beliefs About Outgroup Members’ Willingness to Sacrifice Large-Scale Suffering for Political Gains
Charles Dorison; Nour Kteily
Kellogg School of Management; Kellogg School of Management
Participants are asked to predict how people from the other party would have responded to a series of questions (e.g., rushing the COVID-19 vaccine for political gain). They then are informed of the actual answers from the other party, and how much they mis-estimated the beliefs for the other party (i.e., making them more extreme than they actually are). They also read actual comments from those from the other party. Participants thus learn that many overestimate how people from the other party prioritize their political gains at the expense of large-scale suffering.
Reducing Political Polarization by Correcting Erroneous Meta-Perceptions: A Video Intervention
Samantha Moore-Berg; Michael Pasek; Rebecca Littman; Roman Gallardo; Nour Kteily
University of Pennsylvania, Beyond Conflict; University of Illinois Chicago, Beyond Conflict; University of Illinois Chicago; University of Pennsylvania; Northwestern University
Participants watch a video showing some Democrats and Republicans reacting to survey findings on how much Democrats and Republicans actually agree on some issues (e.g., views on how much to open borders to immigrants). The partisans in the video learn that the extent to which Democrats and Republicans agree is much more than they expected. This can help participants learn that Americans tend to overestimate the extent to which partisans disagree. The viewers thus learn that partisans are not nearly as different as they typically think.
Testing a ‘Values Alignment’ Approach to Reducing Partisan Animosity
Christopher Bryan; Cameron Hecht; Maytal Saar-Tsechansky; David Yeager; Mac Clapper
The University of Texas at Austin; The University of Texas at Austin; The University of Texas at Austin; The University of Texas at Austin; The University of Texas at Austin
Participants read about how the news media creates political division and outrage to maximize its audience. They are provided with quotes from books along these lines. Data are provided that show the more news media one watches, the more inaccurate and exaggerated their perceptions of the other side. Instructions are provided on how to take control back from the media and participants are asked to provide advice to others on how to do this. Participants thus learn that the media has caused perceived divisions that are, in reality, much less stark. Finally, participants reflect on actions they can take in response.