In his recent study, Ethan Busby, assistant professor of political science at Brigham Young University, uncovered a slew of stereotypes surrounding political parties.
When asked to describe individuals from a specific party, people were quick to identify hobbies, religions, races, traits, and viewpoints that those individuals would be associated with. These results made it apparent that Americans often place people in a box once they know which political party they affiliate with.
“There is space for us to be polarized in some ways while agreeing that democracy is something that we want,” says Busby, “ that is something we [as researchers] are still exploring; what kinds of partisan polarization are democratically bad? It’s more complex than just saying all polarization is bad all the time.”
Busby shares three ways to look beyond partisan stereotypes and work towards reducing extreme polarization.
1) View those who are ideologically different in terms of politics rather than as genetically different.
“People tend to become more polarized when they think of the parties as their own intrinsic group — not just in what they believe, but who they are and what things define them,” says Busby. It is these types of distinctions that create gaps between us.
Pretending that all people are the same is not the solution. Instead, we should acknowledge that the political parties differ in terms of ideals. Busby reasons, “If we care about reducing polarization we ought to focus on getting people to acknowledge differences between themselves and to think of those differences in terms of politics [rather than] as a group of terrible people who are fundamentally, almost genetically, different. That kind of thinking promotes less polarization.”
2) Use social media as an opportunity to connect with people who are different from you rather than to reinforce your own opinions.
With the rise of social media, political extremes can seem prominent. However, while most people are enmeshed in social media, Busby is hesitant to blame social media for upward trends in polarization. “People have been polarized before social media and will be polarized long after we move on to something different. And so I do not think it is the source.”
According to the Digital 2021 Report, there are 4.2 billion active social media users around the globe. The majority of those users are online to follow the news or be entertained. Busby highlights that “what is most harmful about social media is it gives us a distorted picture of what people are like. Not everybody talks about politics, and the only people who are talking about politics on social media tend to be people who are strongly motivated by what they think. Most people are not going along with political diatribes on social media.”
The people we tend to follow on social media are ideologically similar to us. “We live in very homogeneous groups,” says Busby, “but we could use social media to connect with people who are very different from us.” Social media can be a tool for us to understand people who value different things than us, especially in politics. Ultimately, it is up to each individual to decide whether or not they want to take his recommendation to invest in understanding those around them who are different.
3) Acknowledge that sometimes we do not understand each other well and work towards greater understanding.
Busby stresses the need to take the time to understand those who are politically different from us.
We must see them first as human beings and second as individuals who are motivated by different political issues.
Busby expresses, “I might not agree with them on those issues, I might think that they are fundamentally wrong on those issues. But they are not categorically different kinds of people. You do not have to agree with someone to make them feel like you’ve heard them.”
Active listening fosters trust and leads to conflict resolution. “If we can feel like other people understand us, then we understand them. We make progress together and handle conflict better.”
About our university campus, Busby shared, “I want BYU to be a beloved community. We should be committed to it. It starts with acknowledging that sometimes we don’t understand each other well. We must be willing to admit that and take the simple step of trying to listen to people before we talk to them, especially in groups that we don’t hear from as much as we should. Try to find ways to listen to people who are not being listened to.”
The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences welcomes seven new full-time faculty members to the Political Science Department, Psychology Department, and School of Family Life this fall.
Darin Self is a new assistant professor of the Political Science Department. Self earned a masters in public policy (MPP) from BYU in 2013 and then a doctoral degree in Government at Cornell University in May 2022. Self is a comparativist studying Latin America and Southeast Asia. He is particularly interested in authoritarianism, comparative democracy, parties and elections, and civilian-military relations.
Alejandra Aldridge is also a new assistant professor in the Political Science Department. Aldridge studied political science at Stanford University, earning a PhD in June 2022. She researches the intersection of democracy, partisanship, and the presidency, and gender and politics.
Stefania Ashby is a new assistant professor in the Psychology Department. She studied psychology at the University of Oregon with an emphasis in cognitive neuroscience. Ashby completed her PhD in 2021 and studies memory and misinformation processing.
Chelsea Romney joins the Psychology Department as an assistant teaching professor. She completed a PhD in health psychology from UCLA in 2021 and focuses on intervention programs for underrepresented students and research mentoring.
School of Family Life
Nathan Leonhardt is a new assistant professor in the School of Family Life. Leonhardt studied at the University of Toronto to earn a PhD in psychology in July 2022. His research interests include social psychology and how relationships are influenced by sexual quality, virtues, prosociality, and religion.
Dana Hunter is a new associate teacher professor in the School of Family Life. She received a BS in Home Economics Education in 1988 and an MS in Family Science in 1992. Her focus is on emphasizing feelings of belonging constructed by food and family.
Cortney Evans Stout is a professional-track associate professor at the School of Family Life. Having studied at BYU during her entire tertiary education career, Evans Stout earned an MS in marriage, family, and human development in 2004 and went on to graduate in 2008 with a PhD in the same field. She brings expertise in child and human development and a background of public scholarship.
Gail Miller, owner of the Larry H. Miller Group, visited the BYU campus on February 10 to deliver the annual G. Homer Durham lecture. Her talk, titled, “The Impact of Community Service and Philanthropy,” gave insights into her journey as a businesswoman and philanthropist.
Gail and her late husband Larry Miller began their foray into business when Larry purchased his first automobile dealership in 1979. Mrs. Miller described how the company continued to grow saying, “One thing after another we were guided through the business world, adding a piece here and a piece there, until we were very engaged in the automobile business.”
In 1986, the Millers purchased the Utah Jazz, which changed their lives forever. As their company grew and the team gained more notoriety, the Millers found themselves living in the public eye and bringing more attention to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and their values than they could have ever expected.
When Larry passed away in 2009, Gail became the face of the company and took an active role in managing the business. Describing the decision to run the business, Mrs. Miller says, “We had a reputation for being ethical, for being honest, for being fair, for treating our people right and providing good jobs. I knew that I could not let that die, so I gathered my courage and decided to step into a role that I was neither prepared for nor wanted.”
Mrs. Miller felt nervous about the enormous responsibility she faced. She said, “The courage came from knowing that my Heavenly Father expected me to use my talents and my ability as a woman to make a difference.”
While she acted in courage, the transition to leadership in the company wasn’t easy for Mrs. Miller. Working with lifelong businesspeople presented challenges and social discomfort. “I was not respected. I hate to say that, but I was a newbie!” exclaimed Mrs. Miller. “I had to learn to speak up to show that I knew what I was talking about.”
As she gained experience, Mrs. Miller did not forget the values that she and Larry committed to when they started their business, primarily the values of community service and philanthropy. She reflected on the economic crisis in 2008 and 2009 when Larry fell ill. “I told my son, ‘I know that we need to do everything that we can to keep the business alive, but we cannot stop giving.’ We couldn’t give at the level that we did before, but we did not stop giving.”
Mrs. Miller closed with her philosophy on philanthropy by saying, “We have opportunities beyond our capacities when we accept the role of sharing what we have with others. There is so much need all around us but there is so much opportunity to enrich lives and make a difference in this world.”
The BYU Political Science Department sponsors the G. Homer Durham lecture every year, inviting notable speakers to discuss social, political and historical topics. G. Homer Durham served as an educator, General Authority in the Church and as Church Historian during his exemplary life.
There’s nothing quite so unifying as the Olympics. We watched the world’s greatest athletes compete and experienced the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. But the conversation surrounding this Winter Olympics was a bit more complicated.
Concerns about China’s human rights violations, athletes’ free speech, and the politics of the International Olympic Committee were swirling around like the snow that didn’t fall in Beijing. Eric Hyer, associate professor of political science at BYU who studies China, has a unique perspective on the situation.
“The Olympics have always been a political event — that’s just something that comes with the territory — and the Chinese are experts in making a spectacle of national pride,” says Hyer. When China hosted the 2008 Beijing Olympics, they sent the message that China was taking off as a global superpower, a real international leader.
The message was very different this year. With the predominant global economy, China no longer has to prove their power and seemed to be saying, “We are here and you can’t ignore us.”
“The Chinese have demonstrated now that they’re not going to back down or try to please the United States. They’re going to go their own direction,” says Hyer of China’s global assertiveness in the last decade.
This shift in messaging is especially apparent in the way that Chinese officials are communicating about the human rights violations currently happening in Xinjiang Province. The United States has accused China of committing cultural genocide among the Uyghur population, citing incarceration in re-education camps, restrictions on religious practices, forced sterilization, torture, and forced labor. Chinese officials continue to deny accusations, and refer to U.S. pressures as “political posturing.”
These pressures seemed to be coming to a head at this year’s Olympics, with U.S. officials declaring a diplomatic boycott, followed by Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, Denmark, Belgium, and India, among other countries. Hyer believes this boycott may not have the intended effect.
“The Chinese seem to be using this as an example of the United States’ diminishing world power. They’ve responded by saying that the United States tried to organize this big boycott and it just didn’t gain much momentum or influence with very many countries, and they see this as an opportunity to show that the U.S. is not as powerful as it used to be.”
As far as the situation in Xinjiang goes, Hyer has watched things unfold for years. During his research on China’s border disputes in 2006, he published a scholarly article titled, “China’s Policy Toward Uighur Nationalism,” that analyzed the relationship between the Chinese government and the Uyghur population in Xinjiang.
Hyer expressed the dramatic change in Xinjiang since that article was written. As worldwide concerns about Muslim extremists have grown, China has targeted the Uyghur Muslims as a potential threat to national security measures. Hyer says, “The Chinese are dead set on forcing Uyghurs to essentially forget their language, forget their customs, forget their religion, and embrace being Chinese. It’s a project of total assimilation. And in that sense, it’s cultural genocide.”
Unfortunately, Hyer doesn’t foresee China having a change of heart anytime soon. “The United States and some European allies continue to push human rights, but China just doesn’t respond anymore,” Hyer says. “It’s unfortunate but we’re losing traction when it comes to human rights.”
“It’s a dilemma. On one hand, we are really unhappy with the human rights situation in China, and at this particular moment the human rights situation in Xinjiang. On the other hand we would really like to see the Olympic events go forward without any problems so the athletes can have good competition and demonstrate their years of training.”
While the Olympic games have come to a close, concern about China’s human rights violations should not.
If learning about topics like this interests you, the Political Science department offers major tracks in Global Development and International Strategy and Diplomacy, and the Kennedy Center offers a major in International Relations.
The most important experiences of your college career may not be in a traditional classroom. Internships provide the opportunity for you to make valuable connections as you apply what you are learning on campus to real-world situations. BYU’s Washington Seminar program is an excellent way about 40 students experience internships each semester.
>>The deadline to apply for Winter 2022 semester is September 24, 2021. Visit 945 KMBL or http://washingtonseminar.byu.edu. BYU has a database of 1,500 internships in the Washington area.
Through the program, well-qualified students have an applied learning experience in Washington, D.C. BYU houses interns on its own property, the Barlow Center, which is conveniently situated in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood. Engaging in a quality internship, briefings on current issues, tours, excursions, and weekly guest speakers supplements students’ academic training and better prepares them for a variety of careers.
“Washington Seminar is one of the crown jewels of BYU,” 2020-21 program director Dr. Jay Goodliffe said. “BYU has invested heavily in resources in D.C. because they realize the opportunities our students have there will then help them influence the world.”
The Washington Seminar program accepts students from all colleges and majors. We talked to four outstanding students from the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences about what it’s like to participate in the program and how living in Washington has enhanced their vision of future possibilities.
Q: Where were you an intern?
A: National Defense University. It functions like a military academy for people who want to get a master’s degree in national security. I work in the International Student Management Office (ISMO). The “students” are mid-career military professionals. One-fourth of the cohort are generals from around the world—there are 130 generals from 65 countries. They are chosen by their respective countries to come.
Q: It must have been interesting to be with seasoned generals from all over the world. Tell me about it.
A: These are men and women who have commanded whole armies and navies. It’s a weird experience for them to come to the United States and be under somebody’s responsibility again. We are a support office to help them adjust to the United States, find housing, schools for their kids, etc. while they are here for a year, so they can focus on their experience and not have to worry about the difficult things that come with adjusting to a new place. I try my best to honor and respect them in asking them about their lives and their careers and why they chose what they do.
Q: What was a favorite experience you’ve had on your internship?
A: Eight students in joint armed war services came up to D.C. for five days and do a tour. They were going to Arlington National Cemetery and I got to go with them as an escort. During the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I was talking to a man from England and he had been a member of the Queen’s Guard. He had served with Prince William and Prince Harry in Afghanistan and had done tours with them. He has all this intense training that he has to do to guard the queen, and he has to learn to talk without moving his lips. It was so fascinating to learn about that part of the culture in the United Kingdom and to be walking around with this incredible man, learning about his life and his culture and why he decided to do what he did.
Q: Where were you an intern?
A: I’m with a group called International Business-Government Counsellors (IBC). They are an international consulting and lobbying firm. The big mission is to provide research and information to their clients. They serve a lot of big companies that you would recognize.
An example of what they do is give information on sanctions. Say company X has business in China. There might be some laws coming down about trade with China. What are those laws, how will it affect the company, what should they do to be prepared? An IBC counselor would tell them.
Q: What is your day-to-day?
A: I did a mix of attending various hearings, like congressional hearings, and taking notes for the counsellors, and other small events—attending panels and doing write-ups on those. Occasionally I’d do other projects, like digging into a specific tariff bill or digging into congressional members and seeing if they’ve said anything scandalous that might get the company into some trouble if they donate to them. I do a weekly update about China and trade news, and human rights news.
Q: It sounds like you are probably in the know about a lot of things dealing with international relations that the average person isn’t.
A: It’s more niche China stuff, or I was keeping track of the civil war in Ethiopia. If people want to know about certain products from China being detained, then cool, but it’s not a thing you pull out at parties.
Q: How has this internship impacted you as a person so far?
A: It’s been really interesting going to the various meetings between policymakers and their various clients. We always hear about the interplay between businesses and government–interplay is maybe a soft word—and it’s interesting seeing how some of this unfolds in real time. It’s a different perspective. It’s looking top-down.
Personally, it’s been really interesting learning about all these weird specific niche things. Like tracking China trade closely. No one cares about customs and border protection seizing goods. Or how prevalent forced labor is within China and maybe the rest of our supply chain. I’m even more curious. I want to keep learning more and see what else is out there.
Q: What advice do you have for students considering an internship through the Washington Seminar program?
A: Do it. If you’re thinking about it, just apply. It’s a really neat experience. The internship you’ll end up doing in itself will be an experience, and the weekly briefings are really interesting. It’s often experienced professionals in their field talking about what they do or what they know in a pretty direct way. It’s neat to have a Q&A with a senator, for example, and get to ask them about issues off the books, because they’re a little more free. You get an insight into how some of these people think.
Q: Where did you intern?
A: TargetPoint Consulting. They are a public opinion and market research firm. They work on political campaigns. We run a lot of surveys to find out how the public feels about a piece of legislation or a candidate, and try to help our clients win whatever their issue is. We also do a lot of market research, working for corporations or companies or nonprofits. We are really just focused on gauging public perception on issues our clients care about.
Say someone wanted to pass a bill in 2022. They would come to us now to figure out what public opinion is, and we’d do what’s called message testing. They’ll give us their top four messages they use to help people change their minds, and in our survey we can figure out which message is the most influential. We are involved in every stage of the campaigning process.
Q: What do you like best about your job?
A: I’ve always really liked politics, and as a political science major I discovered data and became really passionate about data. In my internship I get to see how we can use data in the real world. We get results, we actually act upon them, and can have an influence on the country or in a certain state. I like the real-world application.
Q: When did you decide to do the Washington Seminar?
A: When I was in high school I was trying to decide where to go to school for my bachelor’s degree. I was really attracted to a lot of east coast schools because I wanted to live in D.C, but I had also always wanted to go to BYU. As I was trying to decide what school to go to, I found out about the Washington Seminar program and I thought ‘Perfect, I’m going to go to BYU and do this program, and that will be my little taste of the East Coast.’ So I’ve known for four years that I was going to do this program.
Q: What do you like about living in D.C.?
A: I really love history and this is where it happened. I also love the city feel. The east coast is cobblestone walks along the ocean and that is my vibe.
My husband and I walk to the Lincoln Memorial every Sunday night once it cools down. Everyone knows what the Lincoln Memorial is from movies. It’s cool to actually be there. It’s so fun to sit on the steps and look out at the Mall, and see all the people touring.
I have loved being outside of Utah and being in D.C. and seeing the diversity of people and diversity of opinion. I love the ward that we’re in. It’s so welcoming.
Q: How will your last year of school be different now that you’ve done this internship? What will you take away from the experience?
A: I’ve become a lot more certain of what I want to do and who I want to be because of this experience. I’ve recognized what I can contribute to politics, and that I want to be a positive part of politics. I have gotten to interact with a lot of really kind and wonderful people here and it’s helped me want to be one of those people, so I can help create a more positive view of government.
I’ve always known I would go to grad school so I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take a gap year between my undergrad and other degrees (to work in consulting or on a campaign). This internship has made me more comfortable with that idea and strengthened my desire to be in both worlds at the same time. It has been very reassuring to know I’m on the right path.
Q: What would you tell students considering the Washington Seminar?
A: A lot of people want to come to D.C. but don’t know how, and the Washington Seminar program gives you a really good structure of helping you apply for internships and helping you know which internships are out there. Once you’re here, you have not only a place to live but also support throughout your entire internship. You’re surrounded by people who have the same interests as you, and they’re all trying to figure out the whole D.C. thing at the same time. We were mentored by Dr. Goodliffe, and he’s a really great resource in helping you navigate your internship. Living in the Barlow Center is amazing and super inexpensive.
It’s totally a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Q: Where did you intern?
A: I interned at a nonprofit called Atlas Corps. They do international development and have a fellowship program where they bring fellows to the United states and host them in different organizations here. They do a leadership program with them and prepare them to go back to their countries and fix social issues that are happening there.
Q: What are your responsibilities?
I get to work with the CEO and the communications team and I do a lot of writing reports, I do a lot of research, I work with the database and input donations from fundraising campaigns, and I do a lot of external outreach — a lot of communications stuff where I’m drafting messages or newsletters or reports that then gets sent to our list of contacts.
Q: What is your favorite part of your internship?
A: I get to go to a lot of events which is pretty fun. I got to attend this gala a week ago and the keynote speaker was Malala Yousafzai. She spoke and I got to be in a breakout room with her. It was really fun.
Q: Were you nervous when you started your internship?
A: I was a little nervous at the beginning of my internship. New environment. I definitely wanted to make a good impression on my team. But everyone is super nice and very welcoming, so that went away pretty fast.
Q: What do you love about living in D.C.?
A: There’s always things to do. Museums, and monuments. Truly if you want to go do something, just walk outside. The city’s just beautiful: architecture, monuments, nature/greenery…it’s just a pristine city.
Q: How did you know you wanted to do this program?
A: I had always heard about the Washington Seminar program because I’m a poli sci student. I knew I wanted to save it until the very end because I wanted to end up in D.C. I decided to try and plan an internship around my last semester in college; that way I could come out here and hopefully stay out here. I got a one-way ticket. Bold moves. Really, I just went for it and it’s paid off. I got a job so I’m staying out here.
Q: How did you get a job?
A: Networking is huge here. You do a lot of talking to people and I found some job postings and I applied to them and luckily one of my friends knew someone who was working at the organization I got a job at. I talked with him before I got interviewed.
Q: What is your new job?
A: I will be working at the American Foreign Service Association as a membership specialist.
Q: What did you learn from this experience of finding a job in D.C.?
A: It’s important to be confident in yourself. A lot of people our age tend to doubt their abilities. We’re an anxious group I think. Be confident in what you’ve learned. I know the political science program at BYU really prepared me well for everything I’ve done out here.
President Biden in less than a month has issued 30 executive orders, clearly demonstrating the power of the executive branch. As the 117th United States Congress starts out with mostly new leadership the question on the mind of many Americans is how effective the elected representatives will be.
If the past is any indication, most Americans probably aren’t expecting much. Over the last decade, Gallup reported Congressional job approval ratings that hovered just over 20% — with a low of 9% in November 2013 and a high of 31% in May 2020. To put it in perspective, the institution has lower approval ratings than colonoscopies, root canals, and cockroaches.
This disdain of Congress can be attributed to many factors, including a rise in partisanship. But Andrew L. Johns, associate professor of history at Brigham Young University, believes the historical record reveals that Congress is not simply ineffective, but has in fact abdicated many of its obligations over time.
The disturbing result is a less democratic and more authoritarian government. Perhaps most disheartening is the decreasing likelihood of solving complex problems that require a broad range of perspectives and thoughtful deliberation — exactly the strengths a large representative body brings to government.
While Congress will need to be the driving force in reclaiming its authority, citizens can do more than hold their collective breath. By combatting four main reasons Johns outlines for Congressional dysfunction, each of us can find ways to influence the power and effectiveness of Congress.
1. Congress isn’t designed for decisive action. This makes it easy to step back and let the president handle urgent matters. Congress has the authority to intervene, but not always the will to do so when it’s possible there is a faster, if less democratic, way to a solution. As citizens, we can be patient in important matters and, with our representatives, consider a variety of perspectives as they struggle toward solutions.
2. Political polarization limits congressional power and influence. The refusal to compromise with one’s political opponents prevents the government from handling pressing issues. Profoundly gerrymandered congressional districts and other tactics contribute to polarization. “Support members of Congress who are willing to reach across the aisle,” Johns says. When Congress is divided it creates power on the extremes of both parties and leaves the center completely powerless. “The center is where the work gets done, where the compromise occurs, and where Congress gets its power and authority.”
3. The evolving relationship of Congress and the presidency with the American public benefits presidential power. In the contemporary world, media and technological tools have created a presidency that has a closer relationship to the public than individual members of Congress have with their own districts, at least in terms of perception and familiarity. Presidents, like quarterbacks, tend to get more credit and more blame than they deserve. Citizens can make an effort to get to know their congressmen and frequently communicate directly with them. Know where to accurately place both blame and praise.
4. Parochial interests override institutional interests. Although members of Congress all theoretically have a common stake in the power of the institution, the stronger motivation to the hundreds of individual members is to get reelected by serving their own district or state. This type of situation results in the diminishing of Congress because the “collective Congress” fractures under parochial considerations. It’s true then, that the greatest power citizens have over Congress is their vote. Use your vote to express how you want elected officials to prioritize their interests when representing you.
Johns reminds us that we should support and elect members of Congress that actively seek to restore the constitutional balance because “the Constitution cannot enforce itself.”
Often times we look at our world, our nation, our city, our neighborhood and see things that we want to change or improve. They can be as simple as a couple potholes or as wide-reaching as tax law. The problem that inhibits us from fixing these things is the lack of knowledge in how to make effective and lasting change.
On Thursday, March 28th, stop by the Spring Civic Engagement workshop to discover how you can make an impact on your environment. The conference is free for anybody to visit and learn from the various panels on women in civic engagement. Featured speakers include women such as the mayors of Provo and Draper, a member of the Utah Department of Commerce and a current and former Utah State Representative.
This event will show people that anyone, especially women, have the power to making lasting impacts and changes for the better. Attending the workshop is a valuable opportunity to learn how you can make your community a better place to live, no matter who you are.
The purpose of any political position is to represent the people in an honest and accurate way. When women run for office, they help better represent their constituents. Regardless of whether or not they become elected officials, running brings new issues and perspectives to light that may help provide ways to begin the enactment of change.
It’s the political scientist’s often-asked chicken and egg: does a person’s political party or policy attitudes come first?
With party and ideology so closely intertwined, the question has in the past been nearly impossible to pin down, but BYU political science professors Michael Barber and Jeremy C. Pope found a way. The duo published a study in top-rankedAmerican Political Science Reviewshowing that people’s policy positions are quite malleable when told that leaders of their political party support a different position.
The key to answering their question? The election of a president who has made statements both opposing and supporting a range of controversial issues.
“With President Trump as a bit of a weathervane on certain issues, it makes it easier to discern party loyalists from policy loyalists,” Pope said.
In their research, Pope and Barber studied two different groups: party loyalists and policy loyalists. Party loyalists are those who, when informed of the party leaders’ position, willingly and quickly change their policy position to align with the party leader. Policy loyalists are those who hold to their original policy preference, despite opinions or stances of party leaders that might contradict their beliefs.
“It’s odd to think about partisanship and ideology as being disconnected,” said Barber. “Why else does a political party exist rather than to advance a particular set of policies?”
Using a representative survey of 1,300 Americans, the researchers randomly assigned respondents into control, liberal and conservative groups and asked participants about their political positions on a variety of contemporary issues. The issues they explored were ones on which Donald Trump took different positions during his presidential campaign, including abortion, immigration, guns, health care, climate change and minimum wage.
Control-group participants were asked about their opinions on issues, with no mention of Trump’s position. But Barber and Pope presented participants in the liberal group with questions such as, “Donald Trump has said that he supports increasing the minimum wage over $10. How about you? Do you support or oppose increasing the minimum wage to over $10 an hour?”
In this way, the researchers could uncover the effect of a party leader’s endorsement of a policy in both a liberal and conservative direction. President Trump is unique in that most party leaders don’t endorse policies that run counter to the dominant ideology of the party, let alone advocate for both ideological sides of an issue.
Pope and Barber found that many people in each treatment group moved to support the policy when informed that President Trump likewise supported the policy. This was true of both liberal and conservative policies. “When informed of the president’s issue position, many people willingly followed that position in either a liberal or a conservative direction,” Pope said.
Respondents who knew less about politics, those who approved of President Trump, strong Republicans and self-identified conservatives were the groups most likely to be moved by seeing an endorsement of a policy by President Trump. Surprisingly, this was true of both a liberal and conservative endorsement. In other words, despite identifying as conservative Republicans, these individuals were more likely to endorse a liberal policy when told that President Trump supported that policy.
This kind of loyal partisanship should worry political observers, said Pope and Barber. They both maintain that politics are better when they revolve around more than just the party label.
“It should be about ideas and not about winning or beating the other side,” Barber said. “Politics should be about pushing ideas and policies that you think will better the country.”
With the end of the spring/summer terms comes another inspiring graduating class of Cougars.
The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences boasts some of the best and brightest of the more than 30,000 students who walk across campus each year. This graduation, we celebrate the almost 400 FHSS graduates and their studies, efforts and experiences that are helping families, individuals and communities thrive. From Orem, Utah, to Tokyo, Japan, our graduates act as forces for good across the county and world.
Check out these adventurous, ambitious, and world-changing valedictorians:
Alexander Baxter, a psychology major, loves studying monkeys. As a sophomore, Alexander started working in Dr. Dee Higley’s nonhuman primate research lab. In conjunction with Dr. Daniel Kay, he studied mother-infant attachment and infant sleep development. Alexander went on a summer internship to the California National Primate Research Center at the University of California, Davis. While there, he collected data for his own project of studying prenatal testosterone exposure. He loved the experience so much that he spent the rest of his time at BYU in Dr. Higley’s lab, and went on the internship two more times to collect data. Alexander presented his research with Dr. Higley at four professional conferences, six undergraduate research conferences, and published two first-authored research papers in peer-reviewed journals. In addition to studying attachment and social relationships in monkeys, Alexander also studied similar topics regarding humans, under the mentorship of Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad. Through the connections he made on his internship, Alexander was accepted into the biological psychology PhD program at UC Davis, and will continue doing research at the Primate Center. He is grateful for Elizabeth Wood, his lab manager and friend, and for Dr. Higley, his mentor. He will always remember Dr. Higley’s most important lesson: the people you work with are more important than the data they help you collect.
Berklee Annell Baum is a teaching social science major with minors in both history and teaching English as a second language. She grew up in Orem, Utah, and served a mission in Los Angeles, California. Berklee has always had a passion for learning about history and culture. During her education at BYU, she participated in a social work internship in Italy and was able to do historical research in Germany, Poland, and Austria. She was a member of Phi Alpha Theta History Honors Society, which gave her
A new study shows texting information about political corruption can improve democratic election outcomes.
BYU political science professor Daniel Nielson teamed up with three other professors to look at elections in Uganda, which suffers a range of challenges due to economic, political and social corruption. This study was done as part of a broader project, Metaketa I, which funded six studies in five countries to investigate how disseminating information about corruption impacted voting patterns.
“I am always looking for ways to understand how corruption might be addressed,” said Nielson, whose study was recently published in top-ranked journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Helping voters to hold politicians more accountable seems a promising part of the answer to that puzzle.”
In Uganda, Nielson noted, citizens struggle to vote out corrupt politicians due to state control of media, low civic education, untrustworthy institutions and uncompetitive elections.
During the 2016 Ugandan district elections, Nielson and his co-authors worked with Twaweza, a Ugandan-based organization that promotes good governance, to send mobile phone text messages to inform 16,000 voters about suspected budget fraud by local government councils.
The team was able to contact 16,000 citizens, significantly more than is typical in such studies. They found that the impact of the text messages changed citizens’ votes between 2 and 6 percent. This data would have been difficult to detect had the team only surveyed a few thousand participants, but their wide reach provided them the statistical power to detect small changes in the population’s voting behavior.
Voters who learned that suspected fraud in the political candidates was greater than they expected were 6 percent less likely to vote for incumbents. Those that learned that fraud was less than expected were 5 percent more likely to vote for incumbents.
“We see this as a bright spot that might suggest some ways forward for other non-governmental organizations when they design public-information campaigns,” said Nielson. “Our job as researchers is to point in promising directions.”
Written by Jayne Edwards. Photo Credit: Madeline Mortensen/BYU Photo