July 21, 2022 at 12:49 #3906HankKeymaster
The task of developing a measurement system that actually discovered meaningful resistance to compromise was more challenging than expected. (I also got side-tracked for a few weeks by a time-consuming move, ugh.) But we finally figured it out, and learned quite a bit in the process.
To recap from prior journal updates, based upon observations of the apparently partisan national mood, we presupposed that if we asked people (simplifying), “Are you more in favor of fighting to overcome political opponents or compromising with them,” that the results would skew toward the former, “fighting.” That would be consistent with greater partisanship.
We found that to not be the case. In early polls over 90% of respondents favored compromise. We then tried what seemed an endless series of variations to try to discover where this disconnect was, between apparently partisan public political behavior and survey results that strongly supported compromise. I’ll not recap everything we tried here; it will be an interesting post in the main blog. But in the prior journal post (27May) we summarize what we suspected as we zeroed in on the answer.
And we did ultimately “suss-out” the anti-compromise sentiment, by employing the following techniques:
- We made it about their political representatives instead of about them. There appears to be a difference between how respondents represent their own behavior and how they see the behavior of their political leaders. It was also important to be clear we were talking about the leaders _they_ elected and not the opposition’s leaders.
- We made clear that there is a cost to compromise. If we ask people “Are you in favor of compromising with others” in abstract, it seems most people are. If you ask them, “Are you in favor of conceding some important values in order to compromise” it makes more clear that there is a cost to consider when answering the question.
- We made the areas of compromise more specific. Instead of just asking “should our political leaders compromise,” we cited some very specific issues. For red-leaning target populations we cited “firearms, crime, abortion, etc.” For blue-leaning, we cited “climate change, gun laws, our bodies, etc.” So, rather than thinking, “Well, should we be compromising in general,” we caused them to think, “Should we be compromising on this one issue that is really passionately important to me?”
- We are then going a step further to measure this specific effect of how attitudes toward compromise differ in abstract vs on specific issues. We’re in the process of launching a campaign that asks the same population about compromise on “Politics generally” and then separately on three specific, controversial issues. Our goal is to assess if people’s disposition toward compromise changes when the issues “get real.”
We did also deploy the surveys across ideologically opposing regions. We used a combination of VOTEVIEW and Ballotpedia to identify congressional districts that skewed heavily left or right.
Ultimately we fashioned a survey that was able to identify bias toward opposition, vs compromise. In the first deployment of this iteration of the survey, 75% of respondents wanted leaders to be “much more principled”, vs compromising to achieve progress. 83% of those were heavily in favor of leaders being more principled. This initial result was in a right-leaning district, though based upon the numerous surveys we’ve now done across both types of ideological districts at this point, we are fairly confident we’ll find similar sentiment in left-leaning districts. We have a survey underway right now to confirm that.
Continuing to be a fascinating fact: One of the options we give survey participants is to say that their leaders are already doing just fine and do not need to change in either direction, toward more confrontational or more compromising. Across all the surveys we’ve done thus far, not a single respondent — among hundreds — has selected that; indicated satisfaction with the status quo. So at the very least this tells us we’re working on an issue that nearly everyone is concerned about.
- Wrapping up the current survey assessing if sentiment toward compromise in left-leaning districts is similar to that in right-leaning.
- Launching and completing the survey to measure if differences exist in attitudes toward compromise at the abstract, vs specific issue level.
- If the first bullet above turns out as we expect we’ll then have successfully created a tool for measuring a community’s attitude toward opposition vs compromise, which we can then use to assess the impact, if any, the Project INFLUENCE “persuasion” advertising campaigns have on those same attitudes. So we’ll then advance into the persuasion campaign stage of the project.
Of course, it probably won’t work out that way and we’ll be confronted with yet another surprising obstacle we have to figure our way through. But it’s important to view these setbacks actually as victories. Not kidding; when you identify something you did not previously understand, you have learned something new. And that learning and figuring out new things is precisely the progress we’re trying to make.
Okay, so, more updates as they develop…
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