Elephants and Donkeys Are Killing The United States: Why We Need Political Diversity

Appeal to emotions and perspective take. Most people, and certainly more U.S. citizens, regardless of political stance, have the same life goals that we do but believe in different ways of achieving those goals.  The best way to be attentive to your own biases while also persuading someone who disagrees with you is to employ perspective-taking. Understanding the basis of your opponent’s argument helps you to both show that you are able to see the issue from their side and to tailor your argument to fit their belief system (Tuller et al., 2015). Appeals that invoke value concerns that are relevant to the opposing party are much more effective at shifting policy perceptions and beliefs than appeals from your own point of view (Feiberg & Willer, 2015).

Support governmental reforms and bipartisanship. At the legislative level, politician polarization will decrease when it becomes disadvantageous to be extreme.  One way to decrease the attractiveness of extremity is by supporting open or semi-open primaries. By allowing independents and moderates to vote in primaries, candidates must account for the appeal of their policy stances to a broader audience (Epstein & Graham, 2007). Additionally, increase attention to and positively reinforce bipartisan action on the part of legislators.  Websites like govtrack.us have begun to provide yearly information about bipartisanship for all members of the Senate and House of Representatives, which can help in the endeavor to hold our pundits accountable.

Overall, while it may feel good in the short run to isolate ourselves from partisans on the other side of the ideological divide, the long term consequences of political homogeneity are dire. We have to ask ourselves, is the short term gain to be had through violent enforcement of one viewpoint more important than the long term success and well-being of our nation as a whole?



Allport, G. W. (1954). The Nature of Prejudice. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books.

Allport, F. H., & Lepkin, M. (1945). Wartime rumors of waste and special privilege: why some people believe them. Journal of Abnormal & Social Psychology, 40(1), 3-36.

Andrews, W., Katz, J., & Patel, J. (2016, September 5). Latest election polls 2016. The New York Times. Retrieved from www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/us/elections/polls.html?_r=0

Crawford, J. (2014, March 28). Bleeding-heart liberals and hard-hearted conservatives: Political dehumanization in the United States. The Inquisitive Mind. Retrieved from http://www.in-mind.org/blog/post/bleeding-heart-liberals-and-hard-hearted-conservatives-political-dehumanization-in-the

Crawford, J.T., Modri, S.A., & Motyl, M. (2013). Bleeding-heart liberals and hard-hearted conservatives: Subtle political dehumanization through differential attributions of human nature and human uniqueness traits. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 1(1), 86-104. doi: 10.5964/jspp.v1i1.184

Del Vicario, M., Bessi, A., Zollo, F., Petroni, F., Scala, A., Caldarelli, G., Stanley, H. E., & Quattroiciocchi W. (2016). The spreading of misinformation online. PNAS, 113(3), 554-559.

Ditto, P. H., & Liu, B. S. (2012). What dilemma? Moral evaluation shapes factual beliefs. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 4(3), 316-323.

Elving, R. (2016, March 14). A campaign on the brink: Donald Trump and the intersection of outrage and violence. NPR. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2016/03/14/470375065/a-campaign-on-the-brink-donald-trump-and-the-intersection-of-outrage-and-violenc

Epstein, D., & Graham, J. D. (2007). Polarized politics and policy consequences. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation

Fernbach, P. M., Rogers, T., Fox, C. R., & Sloman, S. A. (2013). Political extremism is supported by an illusion of understanding. Psychological Science, 24, 939-946.

Feinberg, M., & Willer, R. (2015). From gulf to bridge: When do moral arguments facilitate political influence? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41(12), 1665-1681.