Social scientists in the United States have long debated whether the general public is ideologically polarized and whether such division is getting worse.
“Basically, the question is whether people have become more extreme in their positions,” says Yphtach Lelkes, a researcher at Penn’s Annenberg School for Communication. “Some people aren’t convinced that it has been happening.”
Lelkes started studying this subject as a doctoral student at Stanford University, where he met Sean Westwood, then a fellow grad student and now an associate professor at Dartmouth College, and Shanto Iyengar, a professor and political scientist at Stanford and the Hoover Institution.
Two decades later, the trio has co-founded the Polarization Research Lab, a three-year initiative to study polarization, social trust, and political violence in America. Penn Today spoke with Lelkes about the new project.
Yphtach (Yph) Lelkes is an associate professor of communication at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. He holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Political Science in the School of Arts & Sciences.