Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Psychology of Red and Blue America

(I read this article already so I'll post it and then I'll do the other posts that you wanted.)

"A House Divided?" by D. Conor Seyle (University of Texas at Austin) and Matthew L. Newman (Bard College) discusses "red" and "blue" America. The authors found that the increased use of these two terms is likely to increase conflict.

The article notes that "there is a growing perception of a divide in American politics." This can be attributed to the "red and blue map" which became popular in 2000. The map is used in elections and Democratic states are labeled blue whereas Republican states are labeled red.

One big problem with this map is that although the terms Democratic and Republican refer to membership in one group, the map seems to highlight regional and cultural differences among states, making Democratic and Republican refer to something much more than just membership in a group. The authors also point out that "public perception of the average group member tends to be affected by the accessibility of different characteristics, which is in turn driven by the positions of extremists in the group." This is slightly confusing since the labels Democrat and Republican signify moderate groups. The map also implies uniformity, for example in such instances where New York and California may vote Democratically, this does not mean that they share the same values.

An alternative to the "red and blue map" would be a purple map. Rather than just red and blue, this map would show states shaded differently based on how Democratic (or Republican) they are. This would better illustrate states who, for instance, vote 52% Republican and 48% Democrat. Rather than being just red, the state would look more purple.

Many times there are people like former president Bill Clinton- a Democrat, who is a Southern Baptist. Southern Baptists are often associated with the Republican party so this new purple map would help change peoples' views that a political party membership signifies other memberships and vice versa.


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