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Can Partisan Voters Be Swayed? New Research Offers Hope

October 20, 2022

People vote for democracy-destroying measures because they’re afraid “their opponents will dismantle democracy first,” according to new research co-authored by MIT IDE lead Alex Pentland and others.

According to a summary of the paper, The Subversion Dilemma: Why Voters Who Cherish Democracy Participate in Democratic Backsliding, in the U.S., “partisans who most fear the other party’s willingness to subvert democracy are also those most willing to support subverting democracy.” The study was part of a larger project, the Strengthening Democracy Challenge, at Stanford University.

In an experimental environment, the researchers performed interventions meant to reduce these fears. Their findings suggest that with more accurate understanding of the other party, people “become more committed to upholding democratic norms” and “may also become more willing to vote against candidates of their own party who break these norms.”


Read more about the project and watch video about the paper here.