Magazin, Elena Alexandra

Start date:
October 2021
Research Topic:
Inter and intra-ideological contempt across the political spectrum
Research pathway:
Research Supervisor:
Dr Travis Proulx
Supervising school:
School of Psychology,
Primary funding source:

The past year saw a culmination of tribal politics, as partisan rioters stormed the halls of the US Congress. In response, President Joe Biden’s inaugural address was a call for unity, for people to look past ideology and “stand in each other’s shoes” (Fallows, 2021). The trends of hyper-polarisation that contributed to these events can be observed across media platforms, representing a shift in emphasis from genuine policy differences to mutual personal contempt (Abramowitz & Webster, 2016). These trends are accelerated by within-party conflicts leading to distrust between intra-ideological factions. Some argue that at the root of these divisions lies an increasing “empathy deficit” (Ditto & Koleva, 2011). Indeed, empathy has long been viewed as an appropriate solution to intergroup conflict, but recent research suggests that empathy may not always be effective in reducing division (Simas, Clifford & Kirkland, 2020).

The aims of the proposed research are three-fold: (1) Investigate the mutual contempt maintained between the right and left-wing (2) understand the different ideological identities within broader left and right-wing perspectives and investigate within ideological contempt (3) investigate whether perspective-taking is sufficient to heighten empathy and lessen inter-group contempt. It is important to understand whether the roots of inter-group contempt differ depending on specific ideological identity in order to understand these divisions. Most importantly, exploring the divergent identities within left and right-wing ideologies will aid in identifying perspectives that will be more open to finding common ground going forward, which is crucial for any democratic system.