The Loss of Our Democracy
This is the second part of Ye Olde Blogge’s examination of Bright Line Watch‘s latest report on their polling and public perception experiments. The first part addressed their poll findings and our fine interpretations. This part will address their experiments on how information shapes public opinion, specifically about anti-democratic practices and political violence. Then we’ll offer some interpretations of their findings. Spoiler: we’re fucked.
Ye Olde Blogge spent the better part of 2021 considering how we can save our democracy, and we concluded that our democracy is already lost. We’ll spend 2022 looking at how we can win our democracy back. Girding ourselves for the impending violence is an important step.
Experiment on Partisanship and Anti-Democratic Practices
Someone over there at Bright Line Watch had the idea that we are likely misperceiving how anti-democratic our political opponents are AND that that misperception was making us more likely to support anti-democratic behavior in our own side. They decided to test those things out.
I guess it isn’t so surprising since these relationships are well known to those who know them well. And, now you know why so many in the Repube and conservative leadership are accusing Dems of being anti-democratic. Not only is it projection (a favorite gaslighting technique), but it is also likely to encourage their followers to engage in anti-democratic behavior and violence. So, there’s that.
The experiment proceeded like this:
- Participants were asked to estimate the percentage of people on each side of the divide were committed to basic democratic ideals like government and law enforcement agencies are non-political, elections are fair, and everyone is equal under the law.
- They were then given the correct percentages people on the other side who were committed to basic democratic norms. There was a control group that was not given the correction.
- Then, they asked whether people on their side should participate in some anti-democratic behavior like hurting the other party even if it hurt the country, preventing the other party from governing effectively, shutting down the other side’s partisan media outlets, or hurting the country economically to damage the other side.
There findings followed kinda like you’d think only you should just imagine what you thought your political opponents would say and then assign that to your side, too. Honest. There wasn’t much difference. There were some, though.
- 65% of the folks underestimated the democratic commitment of their opponents regardless of party affiliation. They give this example: 92% of Dems say that everyone should be equal under the law, but guesstimated that 75% of Dems would say so and 51% of Repubes would underestimating their side by 17 points and Repubes by 39.
- The control group who had not been given the correct percentages of support for democratic ideals by their opponents thought that it was okay for their side to engage in illiberal practices. While none of them reached a majority of the respondents, there were several categories that reached 40%:
- Make it difficult for their opponents to govern: 39% of Repubes thought it was a-okay and 28% of Dems.
- Shutting down partisan media outlets: 39% and 38% of Repubes and Dems, respectively, agreed.
- Gerrymandering scored surprisingly low with 13% and 15% of Repubes and Dems, respectively, agreeing.
The results of the intervention did not lower these results by much. Seriously, on average just 0.7% points lower. The largest reductions occurred in the practices that would hurt the country in some way (making it hard to govern, hurt the economy, hurting the country in general) and didn’t reduce beliefs that shutting down partisan media outlets or gerrymandering would be okay.
These results suggest that our support for illiberal anti-democratic actions is baked in albeit in small percentages of the population, but still significant percentages.
Experiment: Support for political violence
Spoiler: We already know that Repubes support political violence 100% since they supported the 6 January Insurrection, didn’t remove Trump when he was impeached for inciting the insurrection, and continue to promote violence among their base through all the ways we’ve outlined here on Ye Olde Blogge, so I don’t know why this experiment is necessary. The results are in, but this is what they did.
- They asked respondents to eight questions about the appropriateness of various types of political violence (For a complete breakdown of how they categorized answers, see their report) ranging from making violent threats to non-violent misdemeanors to violent felonies like assault. Also, whether they supported the violence on 6 January and restoring Trump to the presidency.
- The experiment came in the form of the answers:
- Group 1: Yes or No
- Group 2: Branching to examples with a yes.
The results were interesting:
- Nearly a quarter were okay with non-violent misdemeanors.
- About 20% were okay with the following:
- Non-violent felonies
- Violence if the other party won the 2024 election
- And, that 6 January was justified
- About 15% were okay with the following:
- Threatening messages
- Online harassment
- Violent felonies
Still way too many people wanting to commit political violence. We’ve seen the damage that a lone gunman can do and what the organizational prowess of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys could do on 6 January.
There’s more in the report but this is what I found significant. Y’all should check it out and tell me what you thought stood out in the comments!
Social Desirability Bias
The first thing to discuss is social desirability bias. We all know that violence is wrong, so the people copping to thinking committing violent felonies means that (a) they are pretty committed to doing so, (b) there are more of them out there than are in the survey, and (c) they’ve normalized severe violence among their sub-culture.
Hurting the Country
OBSTRUCT! OBSTRUCT! OBSTRUCT! One of the Repubes favorite games is to being the party of no. They don’t have to do anything constructive; they just have to sit back and refuse to participate. It doesn’t matter whether they are in the majority or minority, either. Forty percent of Repubes think it is a fine strategy, so you can bet that the real number is much higher than that.
THE FULL FAITH AND CREDIT is on the line. They’ve been flirting with destroying the economy of the country and the world, and these nutjobs will likely do it at some point, especially since 16% of them are willing to say to a pollster that it is a good strategy. If Repubes do other things to drive up inflation or drive down wages, it’s fine with their base, too. Economic arguments mean nothing to them as long as it hurts Dems.
CENSORSHIP will be de rigueur in any future GQP government. With 40% of the rank and vile saying they think the government should be able to shut down media outlets like MSNBC, (a) you know many more are thinking it than willing to say it and (b) they are just dying to use the governmental powers to avenge the perceived censorship of conservative voices. They will be gunning for liberal media and the social media platforms.
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