In today’s political conflicts, a heart-to-heart talk goes only so far

June 29, 2022

The premise is simple, and it seems like common sense: If Republicans and Democrats could come together for good faith dialogue, the conversations would reduce tensions and ease the corrosive polarization that threatens U.S. democracy.

But a new study co-authored by UC Berkeley political scientist David Broockman found that brief, cross-partisan conversations about sensitive political topics have scant power to narrow divisions. Conversation about neutral topics can create some goodwill, the authors found, but even there, the effect doesn’t last.

“There’s an assumption that these conversations will have positive consequences for democracy,” Broockman said. “Under this assumption, someone might say, ‘I’ve gotten to know the other side, and I like them more, and so now I’m more OK with my representative working with a representative from the other side, and I’m less likely to vote for a politician in my party who’s going to try to disenfranchise the other side.’

Berkeley News