October 9, 2020

Survey: Polarization is a problem, but Americans are willing to embrace new ways to find common ground

A new global report from The Dialogue Project reveals that Americans aren't the only ones suffering from deep political divisions. Respondents across the globe said they'd look to institutions like businesses for possible solutions.

According to a new survey from The Dialogue Project, adults in five countries, including the United States, are willing to embrace efforts by companies that are focused on helping people find common ground. Photo by Arthur Edelman on Unsplash

Our political beliefs are linked to some of the most important aspects of our lives—our health, our financial security, our opportunity to prosper and provide for our families. So it’s no wonder that tensions flare when people from differing points of view start talking politics. And with the U.S. presidential election less than a month away, Americans across the country are feeling that tension tenfold right about now.

They’re not alone. A new report reveals that the deep divisions observed by Americans are also prevalent across the globe, and certain topics—such as politics, race, and religion—are the most difficult to talk about with those who hold opposing viewpoints.

[Read more: Sign up for free a virtual training from the Better Arguments Project]

The findings come from The Dialogue Project, which is an effort to explore the role businesses can play to help improve civil discourse and reduce polarization. It is supported by some of the most prominent global companies, such as Google, Chevron, and Hewlett Packard, as well as the University of Southern California.

The survey, conducted by Morning Consult in July, polled 5,000 adults across five countries: the U.S., U.K., India, Brazil, and Germany. Questions examined the severity of the “dialogue divide,” as well as the issues that are most difficult to talk about and potential solutions for bridging the gap.

Respondents in most countries identified the inability for people to engage in respectful dialogue with those who have opposing viewpoints as a major problem. This dialogue divide was most severely felt in Brazil, where 64 percent of respondents considered it a major problem, followed by the U.S. (57 percent) and India (49 percent). The U.K. (28 percent) and Germany (26 percent) viewed it as less of an issue.

Other key findings include:

  • Politics is one of the most contentious and difficult issues to have respectful conversations about, with 80 percent of U.S. respondents saying it was the hardest topic, followed by race (77 percent), and immigration (74 percent).
  • Eighty percent of respondents said people need to be more respectful when talking with people who do not agree with them. Yet only half of respondents were willing to spend time with those who do not agree with them.

  • Electing leaders who inspire civility was the top choice for helping people find common ground with opposing political and social views.

One area where respondents recognized a path forward was by embracing efforts made by companies “focused on helping people find common ground.” Researchers pointed to initiatives such as The Better Arguments Project, which is a partnership between Allstate, The Aspen Institute, and the nonprofit Facing History and Ourselves. By supporting efforts like these, companies like Allstate “can shine and truly make a difference to close the dialogue divide and help build a more civil society,” the report stated.

Read the full report from The Dialogue Project here.

Learn more about The Better Arguments Project here, including how to attend a free virtual workshop.

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