The Beehive Encyclopaedia: Polarisation

Political polarisation is the term used to describe the growing divide between social groups‘ ideas and ideology, leading to a an increase in extreme political views and loss of common ground (see charismatic leadership and the demise of opposition).

Political polarisation can happen broadly around political parties, when they drift so far apart that they become entirely antagonising entities, often unable to create valuable political debate. It can also happen around specific issues adopted or rejected by certain social groups, issues which might be intrinsically defining of their identity (such as abortion for religious groups) or not (climate change, for example).

Political polarisation ignites our tribal instincts. As such, the opposition often takes an emotional aspect, and the opposing groups don’t really differ as much as it is claimed (see the myth of political positions).

Polarisation leads to the discredit of social institutions, such as the media. It is both influenced by and influencing of media fragmentation – where media outlets gradually lose their role as vehicles of political accountability and become themselves partisan. In those cases, they serve as echo chambers for polarised social groups, further descrediting democratic institutions.

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