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Delia Baldassarri, New York University

Thu May 2nd 2024, 12:30 - 1:45pm
McClatchy Hall - Building 120, Studio 40
Delia Baldassarri

Title: Seeing, not Avoiding the Other Side: Social Network Heterogeneity in an Era of Partisan Politics


Abstract: I am currently working on a book project on Party Misfits – the sizeable part of the US population that does not sort easily into Republican or Democratic camps –, documenting the micro-level tensions that they experience as a result of an increasingly polarized political elite. Whether because of their socio-demographic profiles, diverse social networks, or cross-cutting political preferences, many ordinary citizens defy the stereotypical account of a polarized society. 

My presentation will focus on whether Americans are sorting into homogeneous networks and document the role of social encounters in mitigating outpartisan hostility. I highlight the extent to which acquaintance networks have remained heterogeneous, and the crucial role they play in curbing interparty animosity: Casual exposure to diverse acquaintances might be sufficient to ‘see the other side’, thereby reducing the distorted perceptions that fuel polarization. These results suggest that decades of partisan animosity have not yet irreparably damaged social relations in the United States. However, as people increasingly wear politics on their sleeves, casual cross-partisan interactions may be hindered.