This country feels like it is more divided than it has been in decades. After this election will Republicans and Democrats ever be able to overcome their differences. Politicians continue to support their party’s ideologies, why also telling their constituents that it is time to come together as a country. How can we, though, when our beliefs are so drastically different? Unlike the incoming administration suggests, our salvation to a country of simpatico citizens does not reside within our own borders, but by comparing our relative dysfunctionality to that of other countries.
Harvard Business School behavioral economist Michael Norton joined Boston Public Radio to discuss his new study, which highlights our country’s ability to tolerate and accept other belief systems better than many others.
By using data from Pew and Gallop polls to compare the beliefs of hot-button issues like gay marriage and free speech in 39 other countries, Norton and his colleagues were able to show that American’s disagreements are minuscule compared to the disagreements on a country by country scale. “We may disagree, but compared to countries all over the world we are kind of closer to each other,” said Norton.
While one country may be 98 percent against gay marriage and another maybe 98 percent for it, America is not as one sided on any issue. Unlike in one of these all or nothing countries, we are more likely to find shared values with people we disagree with. “Our goal in this study was to say absolutely people have different values around the country, but there is still some sense of shared values broadly defined again compared to people in other countries,” said Norton.
One of the more interesting aspects of the study showed that men and women disagree about the same as Republicans and Democrats. “If you look at the average difference on any of these issues between men and women and compare it to the difference between conservatives and liberals it is pretty much the same gap. You can think I got to move to Canada now. That’s what everybody on the other side thinks when the other side wins. In a funny, people also think men and women can’t live together but no one is saying that all the men need to go to Canada. We except some differences,” said Norton.
Listen to Harvard Business School behavioral economist Mike Norton above