The title of the research that Dr. Courtney Gosnell and I are doing is called “Examining Factors that Predict Relationship Maintenance vs. Dissolution in Cross-Political Party Close Relationships”. We will being using MTurk in order to get the data that is needed. We will be making up survey questions that will reflect how different political views have/haven’t affected close relationships.
The purpose of this project is to better understand how interpersonal and personal relationships can be maintained or ruined due to have opposing political views. The political divide between the two primary political parties in America has been intensifying. The majority of people (81% from both parties) have negative views of those on the “other side” and many report that the majority of their friendships are now with those who share their political views (67% of Democrats, 57% of Republicans; Foran, 2017). Political differences are increasingly cited as a primary reason for divorce and almost 1/3 American couples report that political clashes over the presidency of Donald Trump have created significant issues within their relationship (Bedard, 2017). So, what is causing relationships to fracture over politics? A large part of it is likely that people are reading more into political differences. A recent Pew research report found that the majority of those polled thought that someone who had different views on President Trump’s performance also likely had different goals and values than themselves (Tyson, 2018). Instead of seeing that a friend, romantic partner, or family member simply has “different views on President Trump”, individuals are instead seeing these close others as suddenly alien—without the shared values that were likely previously assumed to be a key foundation of the relationship. Despite the frequent news stories and anecdotal evidence on how politics are fracturing relationships, there has not been an extensive amount of academic research on the topic. There is ample research on how party members perceive opposing party members—but these dynamics have been rarely examined in the context of close relationships. However, this type of work is extremely important to understanding how individuals can maintain important close relationships in a politically divided world. In addition, we know from extensive research into group dynamics, that having a close friend or family member from the “outgroup” and having greater interpersonal contact with an outgroup member can reduce prejudice and discrimination towards the outgroup and promote greater understanding (e.g., Wright, Aron, McLaughlin-Volpe, & Ropp, 1997; Dovidio, Gaertner, & Kawakami, 2003).
In our study, we will use an online participant pool (MTurk) to get diverse participants across the United States that represents both political parties and different age groups. Dr. Gosnell has received a Dyson Faculty Summer Grant that will allow data collection via MTurk to be financially possible. Participants will be asked about cross-political party close relationships that they have currently or that have dissolved or grown distant due to opposing political views. They will also be asked questions about themselves (e.g. political affiliation, strength of affiliation, motives for affiliation, personality) as well as their relationships (e.g., relationship satisfaction, prior support provision, investment/dependence on relationship, political communication within the relationship, etc.). This will allow us to examine which of these factors might best predict maintenance or dissolution of cross-party close relationships.
Since political intolerance in the United States is growing, it is important to understand the factors that allow us to maintain close relationships with those that have opposite politic views. Since there is not a lot of research on this topic, our research can play a vital role in increasing our understanding of how and why we maintain cross-party relationships and can eventually lead to interventions that could better promote healthy cross-party relationships.