Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the least tolerant of them all?


A fascinating map and a fascinated study published in “The Atlantic” magazine. You can always quibble with the methodology, but for what it’s worth:

We might expect some groups to be particularly angry at their political opponents right now. Immigrants have been explicitly targeted by the current administration, for example; they might have the most cause for partisan bias right now. But that is not what we found.

In general, the most politically intolerant Americans, according to the analysis, tend to be whiter, more highly educated, older, more urban, and more partisan themselves. This finding aligns in some ways with previous research by the University of Pennsylvania professor Diana Mutz, who has found that white, highly educated people are relatively isolated from political diversity. They don’t routinely talk with people who disagree with them; this isolation makes it easier for them to caricature their ideological opponents. (In fact, people who went to graduate school have the least amount of political disagreement in their lives, as Mutz describes in her book Hearing the Other Side.) By contrast, many nonwhite Americans routinely encounter political disagreement. They have more diverse social networks, politically speaking, and therefore tend to have more complicated views of the other side, whatever side that may be.

We see this dynamic in the heat map. In some parts of the country, including swaths of North Carolina and upstate New York, people still seem to give their fellow Americans the benefit of the doubt, even when they disagree. In other places, including much of Massachusetts and Florida, people appear to have far less tolerance for political difference. They may be quicker to assume the worst about their political counterparts, on average.


I’m somewhat suspicious about nearly entire states like Florida and South Carolina (or for that matter Massachusetts) being uniformly extremely politically prejudiced, but the fact that this prejudice is highly correlated with education certainly rings true – it takes today’s higher education to provide people with the necessary theoretical scaffolding for the most bitter types of partisan and ideological hatred of the opposing views. Simple life doesn’t really school you in such bitterness; the school schools you.