In recent years, the societal problem of increasing political polarization and partisanship has become a prominent topic in the national political conversation. Polarization between Democrats and Republicans in Congress is at the highest it has ever been. On the individual level, Democrats have been observed to be more consistently liberal and Republicans have been observed to be more consistently conservative than in the past. Such stark divisions can be impediments to effective governance and productive political dialogue. Despite the problems posed by increasing political polarization and partisanship, relatively little research has addressed the underlying reasons behind these troubling trends. Team MORALS will explore the roots of this political polarization.
Who We Are
We are Team MORALS, which stands for Morality Observations and Research in American Law and Society. We are a sophomore team in the Gemstone Honors Program, in which students design and conduct interdisciplinary research that culminates in a senior thesis. Our team consists of nine students and one faculty mentor, each with different areas of study and each of whom brings diverse experiences and perspectives to the project.
What We’re Doing
Even though Americans may hold drastically different stances on policy issues, Americans tend to hold a similar set of values that has endured since our nation’s founding, such as liberty, equality, and justice. With that in mind, our question is: if Americans share a common set of values, why do Americans come to hold different stances on issues?
To answer this question, we will survey at least 400 undergraduate students at the University of Maryland. We want to examine how individuals define and rank-order values differently. We hypothesize that the reasons for differences in stances stem from different understandings and prioritizations of the values, which may be the result of the effects of certain indicators such as personality and demographic factors.
By successfully completing our research, we will do more than simply add to the body of academic knowledge. If we can better understand the underlying reasons behind individuals’ stances on some of the most contentious issues in American politics, we can foster conflict resolution and more accurately frame policy debates.
How You Can Help
In order to carry out our research, we need to purchase a netbook for the purposes of securely storing our data so as to maintain the integrity of our data and the confidentiality of our survey participants. Additionally, we must purchase SPSS data analysis software to be used in the correlational and factor analysis of our collected data. Since our research is survey-based, the primary challenge we face is in recruiting a sufficiently large sample size from which we can draw statistically significant results. Accordingly, our research depends on our ability to incentivize participation in our survey.
Gifts in support of the University of Maryland are accepted and managed by the University of Maryland College Park Foundation, Inc., an affiliated 501(c)(3) organization authorized by the Board of Regents. Contributions to the University of Maryland are tax deductible as allowed by law. Please see your tax advisor for details.