As you look at the world as a whole, you usually see a division. It could be because of a division between a group’s opinions or just because of factors like income inequality. Polarization is dividing up people and causes the formation of labeled groups to be formed. There are different types of polarization like political polarization. Polarization is seen to spread like fire, especially when dealing with political polarization. Polarization can be seen to be used in more places than others. Like many things in a concept, like polarization, can be seen as a good thing. There are more negative ways to describe political polarization than having to express the good attributes.
Polarization is defined to be a division between two contrasting groups or sets of opinions or beliefs (Bellamy 2020). It causes people to divide across the board based on their ideologies. When you break down polarization, one of the most well-known types is considered to be political polarization. Political polarization is the same concept as polarization, but it branches down to politics. It is breaking down into groups that deal with a particular political ideology. For example, this could deal with political parties or some sort of stand on policies.
Political polarization is used all across the world, mainly in the United States. As we look into the United States government, we can see that there are two major political parties Republican and Democratic Parties. There are other political parties Reform, Libertarian, Socialist, Natural Law, Constitution, and Green Parties (2020). When election times come in the United States, we usually see there is a division between people when it comes to their opinions of politics. As the major parties are recognized by their colors, blue for Democrats and red for Republicans, people label themselves with these colors (Dimock 2014). When you see the voter’s maps of the United States, it can show most states colored in red or blue. This overall shows political polarization has taken a role in the United States election. Election time in the United States is such a crucial time as people align with the political parties they believe align with their opinions or ideology.
There is a global spread when it comes to political polarization. It can be seen as the Covid-19 pandemic. The idea of polarization is contagious. As one person joins a group that aligns with their ideology, people will always follow. It can be seen as shaking up societies across the world (Carothers & O’Donohue 2019). Look at the bases, it is not only an American illness, it is a global one (Carothers & O’Donohue 2019). Political polarization is affecting governments all around the world, especially in democracies. It is taking over in different countries other than the United States. For example, it is tearing the seams of democracies from Brazil to India to Poland and Turkey (Carothers & O’Donohue 2019). Looking into the countries with a polarized democracy, there are some similar patterns or roots that follow along with them. The main aspect that stood out was the decisive polarizing leaders (Carothers & O’Donohue 2019). They are the essential people that cause the tension to rise when dealing with opponents and diminishing the democratic process (Carothers & O’Donohue 2019). Looking more into the spread, social media is a component in causing the spread. As social media is everyone, it causes news (fake or real) to foster people’s opinions on a certain political party (Bellamy 2020).
As political polarization grows, it can be seen to have negative attributes. For example, it can be seen to damage democracies (Carothers & O’Donohue 2019). It is equated with patriotism but also causes the action to destroy the “other” side to become a major goal to look forward to. Along with that aspect, it causes division with the communities (Jilani & Smith 2019). It causes people to essentially demonize each other (Jilani & Smith 2019). People are becoming more violent (Jilani & Smith 2019). People begin to see each other as a competition and not as human beings (Jilani & Smith 2019). This leads to an increase in hate crimes across the world. As many people feel strong with their identities, they become more devoted to speaking out on their opinions, which ends up causing violence as a result (Jilani & Smith 2019).
Polarization is becoming a very common aspect nowadays all across the world. As more and more resources become available to the public, it essentially causes groups to be formed. These groups cause a division between the people. It can be seen as a political distance separating partisans. Political polarization overall hurts the governments, as we can see with the United States government. Sure, there are ways to reduce political polarization, but it is a concept that will stick around as long as there are political parties or different opinionated groups being formed. Political polarization has caused some damage and had some negative views, more so on their opposing parties. This overall shows the danger that rises with the growth of polarization.
The way that you discuss political polarization as a primary cause for violence as a result of one side demonizing the other and seeing them as their enemy makes me think of the Stanford Prison Experiment. This experiment studied what would happen if they divided people into prison guards and prisoners, to see if good would reign over evil, or if the prison guards would become tyrannical. More than anything, it was to test the effects of prison life on prisoners and guards. The groups were divided based on no genuine merit, only based on the flip of a coin. So, all of the people involved were white college-aged middle class males. The prisoners were demeaned by being treated like prisoners being arrested coming into the program, and were further demeaned throughout the programs so that they felt like prisoners. The guards were given only the instruction to do what was necessary to keep order. This resulted in the “guards” becoming extremely sadistic and the “prisoners” becoming very isolated and depressed.
All of this to say, it is amazing how simply because one group is led to believe they are better than or more morally right than another group, how easily that can make them hateful towards those with differing opinions. Polarization is such a natural result of separating people into groups, and we have just seen that on a grand scale in America.
So, I agree with you that as long as there are political parties, we as a country are going to be somewhat polarized. However, I don’t think that it should be to the extent it is currently. I think news media and social media is responsible for dividing the population into groups. They profit off of derision, so what is our hope for this stopping in the future? I don’t know.
This is a great post that gives extensive information about how polarization affects democracy. You mentioned that when people feel strongly about their identity, they speak out their opinions which causes violence. This is definitely true, but I believe that there are times when having a strong feeling about one’s identity and speaking out about the opinions associated with that identity has led to positive change in society. Social movements such as the civil rights movement, the gay rights movement, and the feminist movement are examples of this. I think that what is important is one side being able to empathize with the other side. As you noted, polarization causes division, and it can easily lead to “us versus them” ways of thinking. When this happens, it becomes hard for citizens to hold their government accountable because as long as they are a part of the “us” group they feel complacent when government leaders start eroding democratic institutions. We can see examples of this in Poland where checks and balances are being diminished due to the Law and Justice party appointing biased judges to the judiciary, but many Polish citizens are fine with this because of the polarized opinions against the left. Another negative aspect of polarization is the violence it creates which you also noted. We can see this by looking at the amount of violent hate crimes in the United States where the criminal has been radicalized by polarized opinions. Social media makes this worse as it can create a bubble where we only see the same opinions, and this contributes to polarization which can then lead to radicalization in the worst cases.
Hey Muntaha! Polarization is one of those things I believe is inevitable in politics regardless of country. There will always be people who look for division, and what better way to find it than in politics? In the US specifically, I don’t think political polarization started out as a bad thing; rather, it has been capitalized by populist politicians in recent years. Furthermore, the media is particularly good about fueling the fire of political polarization, often skewing candidates under the umbrella of one particular topic rather than one particular party. Politics used to be healthy competition, but the modernization of the world has led to polarization. I also personally disagree with the comparison of political polarization to COVID-19. Yes, they are both global issues, but one is a pandemic that takes lives and has uprooted countries by destroying their people, and the other uproots countries by dismantling their democracies. Each can have an impact on each other, but they are not comparable in any way. Furthermore, I think the example of people following a person due to an ideology is more like pedagogy than polarization. You bring up social media and its impacts on political polarization, and I agree, that plays a big factor on polarization, but it is not accessible in every part of the world and cannot affect every democracy as a result. With every kind of media, it is also important to note that political polarization can be exaggerated or under exaggerated depending on the outlet in which the polarization is shown. I also disagree to some extent with the idea that polarization is associated with patriotism. In America, that may be the case; the United States in recent years has been known for the “pro-America” versus “anti-America” sentiments, but is that the case in other countries? I wish there had been more examples of political polarization outside of the US to make this case.
Muntaha, I think your bring up several great points in regards to polarization specifically in the United States. I like the simile that you used to the COVID-19 pandemic to the spread of polarization. I think that polarization has become something dangerous in society. People are scared to talk to one another in person for fear of confrontation. People are easily angered by people of opposing parties. I think it is almost like being a fan of a certain football team and hating the rival team. Even though we do not truly know what the other team is like, we make a lot of assumptions. I think that this is what it is like to be aligned with a certain political party in the United States. Your political party is the one that is right and the other one is completely wrong and has no idea what they are talking about. I think that this can become dangerous, because this all eventually turns into hatred, which just divides the country even more. We are more distant from each other than ever, because we think we are so different from one another. I think we have way more in common than we think, and we have let politics have too much control in our lives.
This post is very educational and provides a large amount of clarity regarding the
issues of polarization on an international level. I often attribute a great amount of America’s democratic erosion to political polarization, especially within recent years following the 2016 and 2020 Presidential elections. The toll that increased violent rhetoric and general tension have on nations, their people, and the marginalized communities that are disproportionately affected by democratic backlash is far too great to ignore and raises many questions of whether governments have our best interests in mind. However, I believe it is also important to acknowledge that polarization at its root may be presented as a result of national pride and passion. While the implications of political passion may be complicated, it is important to allow political competition on a national setting and provide accessibility of freedom to express one’s opinions and passions safely and freely. This compromises our ability to penetrate polarizations and makes me wonder how it would be possible to combat this issue as a whole.
Muntaha, this is a great post. I do think that polarization is taking over the world. I recently did research about how globalization has caused an increase in the amount of polarization and populism in western democracies. Through my research I found that because globalization causes income inequality in developed nations, it has caused an increase in more extreme politics in these countries. Globalization took off in the 1990s and since we have seen a rise in polarization. It will be interesting to see what happens in the future as the world becomes more and more globalized. It will also be interesting to see if polarization affects globalization. Leaders like Trump have placed the blame for income inequality on other countries and indirectly at globalist policies. I would hypothesize that an increase in disdain for other countries will cause a decrease in globalization and an increase in nationalism in countries around the world, but we will have to wait to observe what happens in the years to come.