Woke Democrats dehumanized conservatives more than vice versa during the 2020 election, partly because progressives are more misinformed about their rivals’ view of them, according to a study by four surprised researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
“Democrats expressed more dehumanization and antidemocratic spite toward Republicans than vice-versa. … This appears to clash with research suggesting that liberals are more open, tolerant, and less biased toward outgroup members,” said the study.
The most partisan conservatives humanize some Democrats, but “the most liberal Democrats expressed the greatest dehumanization of Republicans,” said the study, which is titled “Metadehumanization erodes democratic norms during the 2020 presidential election.”
The researchers are wrapped up in university careers, so they are likely unfamiliar with mainstream conservative media and the unpopularity of progressive demands. They are likely also unfamiliar with mainstream conservative views about how civic cooperation can be aided by national solidarity, live-and-let-live federalism, Christian forgiveness, an appreciation of human variety, and giving everyone a fair chance — although not enforcing an equal outcome.
The four researchers suggested that the higher-than-expected dehumanization by progressives is driven by progressives’ shift from class and economic politics to “woke” identity politics:
This counterintuitive finding may be explained if American political affiliation is based on a “moralized identification with one political group and against another,” more akin to tribal sectarianism than well-reasoned differences in ideological preference … Since denigrating competitive outgroups also bolsters one’s social identity for highly identified Democrats, expressions of their adherence to liberalism and dehumanization of Republicans may go hand in hand.
The progressives’ 2020 dehumanization of ordinary Americans may also be tied to their shock at the civic rejection which was delivered by former President Donald Trump’s victory in 2016, the report said:
Exposure to polarizing political elites inspires social identity threat and animosity toward the opposing side. Perhaps the Trump administration’s divisive rhetoric and antiegalitarian social policies led Democratic liberals to feel particularly threatened. This experience of social identity threat could then promote their dehumanization of Republicans.
The progressives’ ignorance and the growing hostility can be ameliorated by better media and more rituals of solidarity, say the researchers:
Those seeking to dampen partisan enmity could leverage corrective information interventions to attenuate their overly negative metadehumanization. They might also target potential antecedents of metadehumanization (e.g., elite polarization in media) or offer defense against its social identity threatening consequences to cut off a feedback loop of mutual hostility that erodes democratic norms. Ultimately, we hope these insights lay the foundation for a future in which political disagreement coexists with mutual acceptance and productive bipartisanship.
“Metadehumanization [is] the perception that another group dehumanizes your own group,” the study says.
The study does not explain why Democrats have adopted woke politics.
This study, however, is another useful report showing how status-seeking progressives choose to misunderstand their fellow citizens. In February 2019, for example, Breitbart News reported that two university professors concluded that supporters of President Donald Trump are not more likely than Democrats to see political rivals as a threat to the nation, nor are they more willing to accept rule-breaking. In fact, more Democrats than Republicans were willing to support violence if their side lost the 2020 election, said the study, which is titled “Lethal Mass Partisanship.”
Some academics are trying to escape from the progressive bubble.