Why the “perception gap” doesn’t matter that much in politics

This is the “perception gap”: perceiving your political opponents to be more extreme than they really are.

“Democrats and Republicans significantly overestimate how many people on the ‘other side’ hold extreme views. Typically, their estimates are roughly double the actual numbers for a given issue.”

The Perception Gap: How False Impressions are Pulling Americans Apart

Fun but tragic facts presented in the linked article above:

“Greater partisanship is associated with holding more exaggerated views of one’s political opponents.”

“The Perception Gap is strongest on both “Wings” (America’s more politically partisan groups).”

“Consumption of most forms of media, including talk radio, newspapers, social media, and local news, is associated with a wider Perception Gap.”

“Education seems to increase, rather than mitigate, the Perception Gap (just as increased education has found to track with increased ideological prejudice). College education results in an especially distorted view of Republicans among liberals in particular.”

“The wider people’s Perception Gap, the more likely they are to attribute negative personal qualities (like ‘hateful’ or ‘brainwashed’) to their political opponents.” (…)

“Thus, a more salient question may be, “what can be done about it?” given that many of the most intuitively obvious correctives — education, the media (including from flagship publications like the New York Times, Washington Post et al.) and political engagement — all seem to make the problem worse.” (…)

“It may be possible to ‘fix’ higher ed and media institutions so that they become part of the solution instead.  This is, for instance, what Heterodox Academy hopes to do with respect to institutions of higher learning (and organizations like Solutions Journalism aspire to do for the media).”

“However, a number of organizations and movements nationwide have also emerged to help people with different commitments, and from different walks of life, engage with one another directly (e.g. The Village SquareBetter AngelsBridge USAFree Intelligent Conversations — more here). Although these latter efforts have often proven challenging to scale, they offer a means for citizens to sidestep the institutions currently mediating (and often undermining) our engagement with one-another.”

The perception gap is not that relevant in politics, because the latter is usually formed by elites, not common people, as explained here:

Big Tech’s post-democracy: elites fighting each other

Common people, the 80 percenters, are sheep. Sheep are not naturally extreme, but they are stupid (uninformed) herd animals who can be driven to do very stupid things if led by the wrong shepherd.

Real politics is often shaped mostly by elites and vocal minorities. Relatively many of them are “extreme”, even evil, partly because 1) power corrupts, and 2) popular and hierarchical movements or institutions attract high-functioning psychopaths. Many of them have an interest in dividing a country, by contributing to hyper-polarization, if it can serve their own desire for more power.

But what is meant by “extreme”? Libertine wokeness is “extreme” per definition from a moderate conservative perspective. And vice versa. The word “extremist” is too relative and value-laden to be useful as a scientific concept.

Today’s mass surveillance, and the fourth industrial revolution in general, is “extreme” compared to what has been normal through human history. But whether one uses harsh or more polite words when describing one’s political opponents the fact is that libertine woke surveillance states are evil from the viewpoint of both moderate liberality and moderate cultural conservatism.

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