Revisiting Hearing the Other Side in an Age of Polarization

Awarded Scholars:
Diana Mutz, University of Pennsylvania
Project Date:
Aug 2020
Award Amount:

In her previous book on the 1996 presidential election, Hearing the Other Side: Deliberative Versus Participatory Democracy, political scientist Diana Mutz highlighted the tension between the need for a participative mass public and the desire to maintain social harmony in a diverse society with the ability to maintain relationships that cross lines of political difference. Mutz will replicate her earlier study with data gathered before the 2020 election to assess changes in people’s information environments since 1996. She will extend her original theoretical framework to examine contemporary questions involving how people’s perceptions of polarization affect their willingness to engage in cross-cutting conversation. Mutz will look at how changes in the political communication environment have influenced prospects for political tolerance, deliberation and participation. To incorporate new potential sources of exposure to political difference, she will assess social media exposure to like-minded and differing political views on such platforms as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, Mutz will also ask whether or not respondents have and/or continue to engage in social distancing activities, whether they are socializing to the same extent, whether they are recently unemployed, and so forth. Mutz will augment survey findings with smaller scale experimental tests to better establish causal inferences.


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