Professor, students react to negative effects of polarized politics


Midterm elections are only two weeks away. Polarization by political candidates can have effects on a voter’s selections and even the people they choose to associate with in daily life.

Dr. Josh Meyer-Gutbrod, a Political Science professor for the University of South Carolina says polarization tactics are consistently used by candidates to drive votes.

“The parties found that if they can convince you they’re polarized, then it increases your odds of turning up. Basically if they can draw a big distinction between the Republicans and Democrats, people are more inclined to go out and vote. If there’s a narrow distinction there, if Republicans look just like Democrats, there’s no reason to go out and vote,” says Dr. Meyer-Gutbrod.

But, he believes polarization also loses distinctions within the political parties.

“You lose something. As citizens gloss over that, they lose something as well. They lose the idea that they can come together with peers who they may disagree with on one issue but probably agree with on lots of other issues. And I think that loss — that’s the unhealthy part for American democracy specifically — is that inability to recognize that the person you’re arguing with about politics probably agrees with you about a lot of things,” says Dr. Meyer-Gutbrod.

Political Science major George Murphy says polarizing politics overall is unhealthy.

“I think it’s a slippery slope. You’ve seen that in the last couple of election cycles. People get more vicious with each other, politicians get more vicious with each other, and that doesn’t lead anywhere good,” says Murphy.

Camden Kaye is also a Political Science major who says differing political beliefs can make building friendships more difficult.

“There’s certainly times where I’ve talked to people and it does turn into a shouting match, and I don’t love that. I’d like to distance myself from that, so I’d say the behavior of people more than their actual politics determines how I interact with them,” says Kaye.

Psychology major Makayla Schoderbek says assumptions about someone based on politics can affect the trust we have in a person.

“It causes people to make assumptions, like, oh this person looks like this or acts like this so I can’t relate to them. Or I can trust this person, even though they may be an unsavory person,” says Schoderbek.

Murphy hopes extreme polarization in politics dwindles.

“It begs a lot of questions about where we’re going and where we’re headed as a country. I hope that it gets under control in the next couple of years, but I won’t hold my breath,” says Murphy.

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