Political Bias

Oct 7, 2020–Every four years as we approach the elections, I ask the same question: Is anyone “undecided?”

Because 90% of everyone who is paying attention to politics fall one way or the other on these binary choices: either Republican or Democrat, Liberal or Conservative, Left or Right. (For discussion purposes, let’s limit this to a Presidential election.)

And I would bet that choice can not be changed by watching a debate, answering a poll, reading a platform, or reacting to the latest October surprise.

Or even less from seeing a political ad or reading another flyer in the mail.

It seems an individual’s political preference is set and not negotiable, even in the face of an avalanche of facts and arguments from the other side.

My question is, at what point in life does that political preference get baked in?

My earliest awareness of politics was the Kennedy/Nixon election of 1960. One of my older sisters brought home a poster she had made in school depicting the two candidates riding a donkey and an elephant in a race. I remember it raised a spirited discussion at our dinner table, although I don’t recall any consensus in our family vote.

After that, I was not interested in politics, even when I turned 18. But I knew it was important to vote. So I usually penciled in the third-party candidate just to record my participation without influencing the outcome by my ignorance.

As I matured and became vested in the economy and society, I began to form stronger opinions on what I expected from political leadership. I grew more informed, and saw the results elections could have.

But politics remained something to discuss around kitchen tables and on bar stools.

Until the rise of social media.

Today, it’s impossible to avoid the bitter tropes flung across the digital battlements. I marvel at the intensity and frequency of such debates, even in the face of evidence they do nothing to change anyone’s opinion.

So my question remains, what are the roots of these intense individual political views?

I know it has nothing to do with the way we were raised. Look at any family, and you will see siblings at opposite ends of the political spectrum, leading to seats at opposite ends of the Thanksgiving table.

Yet every child was raised in the same household by the same parents, learning from the same teachers, listening to the same sermons. Does that mean we are born liberal or conservative? Or changed by some profound life experience outside the home?

However we arrive at our political bias, it is a powerful force. Because people hold on to their politics more passionately than they do their religious views. At least they defend them more vigorously. Maybe that’s because we have learned not to question anyone’s religious dogma; but we haven’t learned the same about politics. We labor under the misconception that we can change someone’s political view.

I have yet to see it happen.