Some of the data we’ve gathered is interesting even outside the context of its specific study. Here are some of the curious insights:

Can Americans be persuaded to collaborate with political foes? In a scalable way?

The answer is “yes,” according to large scale, random, controlled trials.

We tested messaging that can be cost-effectively deployed to an arbitrarily large set of citizens (i.e. “scalable”). The messaging employed a logical thought sequence to encourage citizens to demand that their politicians work with ideological opponents to actually “get things done.”

After showing this messaging to a Test audience, we invited they and a separate Control audience that had not seen the messaging to take action to reduce partisanship. Concluding in January, 2024, the trials recorded that the messaging significantly increased citizens’ propensity to take action to support collaborative politicians, versus citizens who had not been shown the messaging.

Figure 1: The messaging increased willingness to act against partisanship.

Indeed, citizens exposed to the messaging were 46% more likely to take action to support collaborative politicians. This is illustrated in Figure 1.

Conclusion: Yes, Americans can be persuaded to support collaboration with political opponents and even take action to accomplish that.

More information on this study, including caveats and limitations, is available at “Data: Ad campaign significantly improves non-partisan behavior.

Do Americans want politicians to be more compromising or more principled than they are now?

It depends on whether it’s clear that compromise requires sacrifice.

In 2022-23 we polled 542 Americans in sixteen states on whether our politicians should be more compromising or more principled. This was an interesting study because initially we learned that most people support compromise, at least in the abstract. Figure 2 shows that in the abstract, this pre-compromise result holds consistent across geography and ideology (207 people polled in ten states). For reference, here is an example of a poll asking the abstract question.

But if the polling question suggests that compromise may involve threats to one’s values, or the need to make any concessions, support for compromise reverses into opposition. In later polling that added those two factors, across 335 respondents in eight states, over 76% advocated for more principled, versus more compromising politicians. Figure 3 shows this result also held consistent despite geography, ideology or urban/rural location.

Again for reference, here is the specific poll used in right-leaning districts. (“Compromising” and “Principled” exchange positions randomly with each impression.)

More information on this study, including caveats and limitations, is available at “Independent polling sees promising opening for Yang & Whitman’s Forward Party.” (We called out Yang, Whitman and the Forward Party only to encourage social media virality.)

Are Americans willing to compromise even on contentious issues like abortion?

Surprisingly it appears the answer is yes. This next one was a tiny survey — only 91 subjects — so take it with a “grain of salt,” but the results were dominant in one direction. In July, 2022 we surveyed Colorado’s 3rd and 6th districts using Instagram. We inquired into whether respondents felt we needed to better overcome or compromise with opponents both generally, or on three specific policy issues: economic policy, firearm policy and abortion. Figure 4 shows the poll used for one of the issues, firearm policy.

Note that further to the observation immediately above, in this survey we did not mention threats to values, nor the necessity of any concession.

Respondents favored compromise on all four issues tested — including abortion — as shown in Figure 5. This degree of support for compromise was consistent with that found in the larger-scale national polling we’ve done on support for compromise in abstract, addressed above.

Interesting side note: CO Districts 3 & 6 are ideological opposites.

More information on this study, including caveats and limitations, is available at “Independent polling sees promising opening for Yang & Whitman’s Forward Party.” (We called out Yang, Whitman and the Forward Party only to encourage social media virality.)

What influenced people to support or oppose COVID vaccines?

During the pandemic, we conducted a study into why Americans do or do not trust COVID vaccines. This study polled 221 subjects in the Miami Beach, San Francisco Bay and Hattiesburg, MS regions. Among interesting findings was how different were the sources of information that influenced the pro- and anti-vaccine communities.

Those who distrusted the vaccines disproportionately relied upon their own research and experiences:

  • 70% of them credited their own research while only 46% of the vax-confident did so.
  • Similarly, 47% credited their own witnessed experiences, vs only 16% among the confident.

While those who trusted the vaccines were much more likely to rely upon:

  • healthcare authorities (70% vs 33%) and
  • the federal government (39% vs 9%).

The vax-confident also claimed to avail themselves of their own research, but to a much lesser extent than the vax-concerned.

Figure 6 accentuates the gap between the two sides’ primary information sources by ordering the sources top-to-bottom by how disproportionately each source influenced the vax-concerned (at top) vs the vax-confident (at bottom).

The popular wisdom at the time was that the two sides had differing views due to being under the influence of different media sources (ie: FoxNews vs CNN) or politicians (ie: Trump vs Biden). However, curiously, according to their own responses, no type of news media was a primary influence for either side and neither trusted politicians. The vax-concerned reported “trusted” politicians were their least influential source — dead last, and the vax-confident listed them as second to last.

More information on this study, including caveats and limitations, is available at “Vaccine wars”; harbinger of conflict to come? Study unearths disturbing distrust across US.”

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