Super Cities №218—When Extreme Wrongness Reigns

Brendan Hart

Imagine thinking that every other Democrat you meet is unpatriotic – or that every other Republican you meet is insensitive to racism.

A new study asked 2000+ Americans what they believed and what they thought people on the other political side believed.

The "Perception Gap" findings are stark:

"Democrats and Republicans imagine that almost twice as many people on the other side hold extreme views than they really do."

Other striking takeaways:

  • Extreme people are most inaccurate. Both "progressive activists" and "devoted conservatives" have a plus-thirty (30%+) perception gap.
  • Media makes people wrong. People who consume media "most of the time" have a perception gap 3x those who consume media "only now and then."
  • Not all media is the same; cable and internet news are the worst. People who consume Breitbart News have the highest perception gap (+15%); on the other end of the spectrum, people who consume non-cable news – namely ABC, NBC, and CBS – have a negative perception gap.
  • Well-educated Democrats are extreme projectors. Education doesn't make Republicans more accurate, but education makes Democrats less accurate – "Democrats without a high school diploma are three times more accurate than those with a postgraduate degree."

Aristotle once wrote that virtue is the middle point between two extremes.

Twenty-five hundred years later, too many Americans assume that people on the other side of politics lack virtue.

As always, projection says more about its launcher than its target.