The Strengthening Democracy Challenge: Results of a Large Experiment Testing to Reduce Americans' Anti-Democratic Attitudes
Speaker: Jan Voelkel
Deep partisan conflict in the mass public threatens the stability of American democracy. We recruited 252 interventions from 419 designed by social scientists and practitioners to reduce Americans’ partisan animosity and anti-democratic attitudes. The 25 interventions that were identified in peer review as most promising ideas were tested in one of the largest survey experiments of its kind (n=32,059). We find nearly every intervention reduced partisan animosity, most strongly by highlighting sympathetic and relatable individuals with different political beliefs. We also identify several interventions that reduced support for undemocratic candidates, most strongly by correcting misperceptions of outpartisans’ views – showing that support for undemocratic candidates, although difficult to move, is not intractable. Furthermore, correlations of intervention effect sizes provide convergent evidence for a relationship between partisan animosity and support for undemocratic candidates. However, contrary to popular belief, other strategies are most effective for reducing support for undemocratic candidates. Taken together, our findings provide a toolkit of promising strategies for practitioners and shed new theoretical light on challenges facing American democracy.