The article titled “Political Competition, Partisanship and Interpersonal Trust in Electoral Democracies” is one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The reason for this is the relevance to today’s context. With identity politics being more prevalent than ever (such as Donald Trump’s victory and very recently with the election of the far-right and new Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro), it is important to discuss what might lead to highly controversial people becoming elected within a country.
There were two main phenomena that the article discussed. They were trust and partisanship. By utilizing an adequate attempt of empirical evidence (every data point is set by values, and subject to change at all times, which detracts credibility), the writers concluded that biases are present when talking to people with other political beliefs. The article argues that people are less likely to trust others if their political identities (affiliation to political parties) are different, and display more partisanship towards their affiliated political party. This in turn makes discourse more difficult, with the possibility of conflict between people with differing political opinions. This is likely exacerbated by today’s social media, since (in my personal experience of surroundings) people constantly use it to create and/or maintain echo chambers, which shut out the possibility of discourse and trust between people with differing political views.
With this, the issue has been identified. There are times in which people take refuge in their own political identity as a way to satisfy their own beliefs, which can lead to a problem I like to call “blind devotion”, in which people highly trust and go along with a particular leader’s orders without even knowing what the implications of said orders and without considering who the leader even is. There are times in which said devotion is a good thing (sometimes a nation really needs a change and a political candidate, when seen from an outsider’s perspective, can be benign), and others in which it leads to controversy (see Bolsonaro and Trump). With this, there are a few questions that should be asked:
- Why do people take shelter in their own beliefs?
- Can there be a way to make productive discourse more consistently present among people with differing political beliefs?
- Exactly which previous historical examples can be learned of to not repeat their mistakes?
In conclusion, the paper states that there are differences in trust and partisanship between one’s affiliated political party and the opposing political parties (and their affiliated people). This identifies the problem, and makes questions arise about how to bring a real-world solution.
(Image credits to Circle In)