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Trump, Brexit and the rise of polarization

Polarization leads to more extreme political views.
Polarization leads to more extreme political views.
Last week’s budget standoff between Republicans and Democrats was the latest evidence of entrenched political fissures that separate Americans -- and could be making us more radical.

    Political disillusionment -- evident in the U.S. and Great Britain -- leads to more extreme political views, according to researchers at University of Limerick in Ireland.
    British citizens voted in June 2016 for the country to leave the European Union. Besides triggering a political upheaval, Brexit has created logistical, economic and social fallout that has been an issue ever since.  
    In November 2016, Donald Trump won the presidency, defeating Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton, regarded as the front-runner. Trump won in the Electoral College, but lost the popular vote, and took office promising to build a wall separating the U.S. from Mexico, to stop Muslims from entering the country and to overturn the health care program named for his predecessor, Barack Obama. Soon after taking office, Trump issued an executive order restricting immigration from seven countries with Muslim majorities -- a move met with protests and court challenges.
    Most Americans -- 60 percent -- say Trump’s election has led to worse race relations in the United States, according to a December 2017 Pew Research Center survey. Asked how much trust and confidence they had in the executive branch of government headed by the president, 55 percent told the Gallup organization in September 2017 that they had "not much" or "none at all." That's up from the year before, when 49 percent had little confidence in the executive branch.
     Both Brexit and the election of Trump had noticeable aftereffects. Police responded to racist incidents following Brexit, according to The Guardian, a newspaper based in U.K. And in the U.S., protests have focused on women's rights, the rights of immigrants, health care and objections to Confederate statues adorning Southern towns.  
    Disillusionment can prompt a search for meaning, “and we propose that people respond by seeking reassurance in political ideologies reflected in political polarization,” researchers wrote in the journal Social, Psychological and Personality Science. But ultimately, the rise of political polarization triggers a loss of faith in the democratic process, the authors warn.
     The article, "Brexit, Trump, and the Polarizing Effect of Disillusionment," by  Paul J. Maher, Eric R. Igou, Wijnand A. P. van Tilburg, was published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, Jan. 16, 2018.


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