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07/17/2018

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It is interesting that in today's age of technology and social media, sentiments of divide and dissent are amplified and more acutely felt than ever before. As you mentioned at the end of your Pro-Market paper, professor, deeper schisms in recent history (such as the Civil Rights era) have produced far more divisive times.

It does seem, though, that the echo chambers and tools of mass communication available today create the possibility of hyper-rapid circulation of ideas, the unprecedented speed of which contribute to their rapid distribution, adoption, and intensification. I often feel that new technologies allow spreading news/ideas quicker but also intensifies and evolves them due to the ease of consumption and availability of tools to add to/build upon any given trend by any person.

Based on your research, do you feel that meaningful analyses can be conducted on intersecting identity cleavages as you mentioned in The Cultural Divide? To what extent do you feel that the nuances within intersections can be teased out?

Thanks Eleanor. I certainly agree that the new media environment makes cultural diffusion and evolution more rapid and makes cultural innovations more salient. Look at how fast acceptance of gay marriage or marijuana legalization, for instance, diffused across society.

To answer your question, yes in principle you can analyze intersecting identities using the same tools we use to study cultural cleavages across simple identities. You need enough data for each category to get meaningful measures of cultural distance, so that could be a technical hurdle (for instance we would need to survey to interview enough African American urban females to see if they have grown cultural distant from White rural males). We have not done this sort of thing yet but plan to do so in follow-up projects.

Hi professor - In addition to the new media environment, which I imagine triggers some availability bias in our perceptions of a cultural divide, I'm also reminded that this cultural divide, which you argue is over-wrought, is likely misunderstood to be inextricably linked to the growing division of individual political identities, which have been growing further apart for decades (https://www.jstor.org/stable/i333592) and (http://www.people-press.org/files/2016/04/04-26-2016-Ideological-consistency-update.pdf). The first article is an argument from the 1950s by political scientists arguing that without clearer divides among political parties, the electorate was less capable of making informed decisions aligned with their value-systems. From what I understand, this paper was the basis for the separation of the political parties on nearly every issue over the last 70 years. The second article is some Pew research from a few years ago, which indicates that even though Americans may be answering more similarly on cultural response questions, political identities are moving further apart.

Hi Professor,

I'm actually curious about the exceptions. Do you know why the relationship between attitudes and religion is strengthening? I don't have any data on this but is it related to the decline of people being religious in general?

Thank you,
Daniel

Thanks Daniel. In the full paper we argue that new modes of interaction (mostly online - social media and online news - plus cable TV and tailored forms of news) allow certain identity cleavages to experience growing divides, and not others. If you are an Evangelical Christian living in a big city, you interacted with non-evangelicals. Now, with the internet, you can seek out like minded people all over the world and interact with them in an "echo chamber", developing distinct cultural values and beliefs. The new modes of interaction allows you to interact with people with whom you were separated previously, and to isolate yourself from people who do not share your identity. This I think explains the rising cultural divides in religion and political party affiliation. In contrast the internet / cable TV does not have the same effect on rural-urban divides because people say in urban areas always interacted with each other anyway. If anything the internet allows them to now interact with people outside of rural areas, reducing cultural divides. That's the story we tell, at any rate!

Hi Professor - I find it interesting that while we can use decisions such as iphone ownership and Superbowl viewership as notable indicators for wealth, race, and gender, we cannot use them as predictors for individual attitudes. Is there a question or subject that you think the GSS misses or does not explore enough in their survey that you think can shed light on to individual attitudes?

The assigned Piketty reading also mentions the idea that beyond an economic divide, there is a potential for a generational divide. Can you share any insight on whether or not there was any notable generational divide in your research using the GSS?

Thanks Christopher. GSS attitudes are very hard to predict. With our 11 identity markers we can only explain about 15% of the variation in answers. People differ a lot in their attitudes within identity groups, it is a mistake to equate identity and cultural attitudes.
The GSS does a good job covering a wide range of "obvious" attitudes, values and norms. They try not to ask too many questions because otherwise response rates decline - there if a trade-off between how detailed the survey is and how representative the sample can be. My read is that the GSS does a good job managing that trade-off.
On generations - in our work we find a falling divide by age. The decline is quite pronounced since 1972. The age divide is not a big one to start with, in the sense that age alone is not a strong predictor of values. We were surprised by this result in light of public commentary on the different values of the Millenials, etc...

Hi Professor,
The results of convergence in public opinions for two examples that the article provides- a gay marriage and legal use of marijuana, didn’t surprise me because they were extensively covered in media. Media has a significant impact on society in shaping mass opinion and that’s why in some countries like China and Russia it is closely regulated.
Based on the presented data we can conclude that society more likely accepts the idea that got more attention - coverage in the press, social media, etc. It would be interesting to see a relationship between media coverage and the convergence of public attitudes.

Dear Viktoria,
Thanks. I agree with you. In fact that's precisely our argument in the more theoretical (and therefore not summarized in the media) part of the research. We argue that 1) people are conformists 2) some conform to fads that may not be the majority fad, but is seen as "on the ascent" (like gay marriage and marijuana legalization) and 3) media and social media are the conduit through which fads diffuse in society.
Right now on both issues public opinion is split roughly 50-50 but we expect the share of people joining the "fashionable" attitude to rise over time.

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