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Investigating Political Polarization in the United States

Raised toward our $4,000 Goal
94 Donors
Project has ended
Project ended on May 08, at 11:59 PM EDT
Project Owners

Investigating Political Polarization in the United States

The Problem

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.

Choose a giving level


Attorney General

This gift will go towards administration costs necessary to conducting a survey-based research project.


Secretary of Defense

This gift will enable us to advertise for and recruit survey participants in order to attain a sufficiently large sample size.


Secretary of the Treasury

This gift will contribute to incentivizing respondent participation to our survey in order to gather statistically significant data.


Secretary of State

This gift will go towards defraying conference attendance costs, so we can present our findings at conferences in fields relevant to our research. Donors at this level will receive handwritten thank-you notes from the team.


President pro tempore

This gift will cover the expenses of a focus group in order to refine and enhance the quality of our survey. Donors at this level will be sent a periodical newsletter with updates on our progress.


Speaker of the House

This gift will go towards the purchase of SPSS Statistics Software, which will allow us to conduct statistical analysis in our attempt to answer our research questions. Donors at this level will be recognized on our website.


Vice President

This gift will go towards the purchase of a netbook to be used for data storage and data analysis. Donors at this level will be recognized in future presentations and will also receive a personal invitation to our thesis conference in 2017.



This gift represents one-fourth of our fundraising goal! Donors at this level will receive a hard copy of our final thesis, in addition to all perks offered at lower levels.

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