DP17444 Bridging America's Divide on Abortion, Guns and Immigration: An Experimental Study
Americans appear increasingly polarized and unable to bridge ideological divides. We study individuals' willingness to engage with others who hold opposite views on polarizing policies. Two thousand five hundred 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 small fraction (ten percent) reports changing their views as a result. We also test whether emphasizing 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 or etiquette rules, before they have the opportunity to listen to different views. We find that the treatments induce people to adjust their views towards the centre on abortion and immigration, relative to a control group, thus potentially reducing polarization.