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Reducing Polarization on Abortion, Guns and Immigration: An Experimental Study

Michèle Belot () and Guglielmo Briscese

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Abstract: We study individuals' willingness to engage with others who hold opposite views on polarizing policies. A representative sample of 2,507 Americans are given the opportunity to listen to recordings of fellow countrymen and women expressing their views on immigration, abortion laws and gun ownership laws. We find that most Americans (more than two-thirds) are willing to listen to a view opposite to theirs, and a fraction (ten percent) reports changing their views as a result. We also test whether emphasizing having common grounds with those who think differently helps bridging views. We identify principles the vast majority of people agree upon: (1) a set of fundamental human rights, and (2) a set of simple behavioral etiquette rules. A random subsample of people are made explicitly aware they share common views, either on human rights (one-third of the sample) or etiquette rules (another one-third of the sample), before they have the opportunity to listen to different views. We find that the treatments induce people to adjust their views towards the center on abortion and immigration, relative to a control group, thus reducing polarization.

Date: 2022-06, Revised 2023-02
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cbe, nep-exp, nep-law and nep-mig
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Handle: RePEc:arx:papers:2206.13652