The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine


banner

Skeptic Research Center

Social & Political Attitudes Study (SPAS)

Scholars and pundits alike have noted an increasing degree of political polarization among the United States public, especially since the 2016 Presidential Election. However, there is considerable debate regarding the underlying causes of this polarization. To reconcile this debate, the Social & Political Attitudes Study (SPAS) incorporated measurements from psychology, sociology, and political science, to better understand the current political landscape. The purpose of this study was to discover which political issues most divide people, and also to discover how the most divided people see the world.

This study was approved by the Institutional Review Board at the University of North Texas. Data was collected in October 2019 via Qualtrics Survey Software and Qualtrics’ sample recruitment services. 731 adults filled out the 15 minute survey. The study sample is nationally representative — participants reflect the U.S. adult population in terms of educational attainment, ethnicity, gender, and household income.

All of our data will be made available to qualified researchers. Please send inquiries regarding date of availability. For additional information (e.g., measures used, codebook, participant details) on this study, please feel free to email [email protected].

Research reports for the Social & Political Attitudes Study (SPAS) are scheduled to be released July–November 2020 and all reports and supplementals for this study will be downloadable from this page.

REPORT (SPAS-010)

Viewpoint Diversity and Political Bias

Tenth report in the Social & Political Attitudes Study (SPAS)

Will people say that a scientific study should be shared with the public regardless of the outcome? In SPAS-010, we asked people if they thought a study showing that teaching both liberal and conservative views in the classroom increases (versus decreases) violence toward minorities on campus should be shared. Check out what we found concerning viewpoint diversity and political bias.
Download Report (SPAS-010)

Suggested Citation: Saide, A., & McCaffree, K. 2020. Viewpoint Diversity and Political Bias. Skeptic Research Center, SPAS-010.

Technical and statistical information on this data and analysis is available in the Supplemental Materials for Report SPAS-010.

REPORT (SPAS-009)

Political Disagreement and Emotional Closeness

Ninth report in the Social & Political Attitudes Study (SPAS)

In SPAS-009, we first assess the extent to which people disagree on political matters with close friends and family and whether this disagreement relates to their emotional closeness to one another. We then check to see if the relationship between political disagreement and emotional closeness varies by political orientation. Lastly, we explore whether political commitment (e.g., activism) relates to political disagreement.
Download Report (SPAS-009)

Suggested Citation: Saide, A., & McCaffree, K. 2020. Political Disagreement and Emotional Closeness. Skeptic Research Center, SPAS-009.

Technical and statistical information on this data and analysis is available in the Supplemental Materials for Report SPAS-009.

REPORT (SPAS-008)

Political Orientation and Political Attitudes

Eighth report in the Social & Political Attitudes Study (SPAS)

(1) To what extent are peoples’ political orientation consistent with their political party affiliation? and (2) How does political orientation correspond to political attitudes? To investigate this, we assessed attitudes towards abortion, climate change, and immigration among 600 self-identified liberals, moderates, and conservatives. Check out our latest findings.
Download Report (SPAS-008)

Suggested Citation: Saide, A., & McCaffree, K. 2020. Political Orientation and Political Attitudes. Skeptic Research Center, SPAS-008.

Technical and statistical information on this data and analysis is available in the Supplemental Materials for Report SPAS-008.

REPORT (SPAS-007)

Political Orientation and Information Sources

Seventh report in the Social & Political Attitudes Study (SPAS)

“Do sources of information differ by political orientation?” To investigate this, we assessed which information sources 600 self-identified liberals, moderates, and conservatives reported using.

Download Report (SPAS-007)

Suggested Citation: Saide, A., & McCaffree, K. 2020. Political Orientation and Information Sources. Skeptic Research Center, SPAS-007.

Technical and statistical information on this data and analysis is available in the Supplemental Materials for Report SPAS-007.

REPORT (SPAS-006)

Political Orientation and Decision-Making

Sixth report in the Social & Political Attitudes Study (SPAS)

“Do people with different political orientations have different bases — evidence or emotion — for their political opinions?” To investigate this, we assessed political decision-making among self-identified liberals, moderates, and conservatives.

Download Report (SPAS-006)

Suggested Citation: Saide, A., & McCaffree, K. 2020. Political Orientation and Decision-Making. Skeptic Research Center, SPAS-006.

Technical and statistical information on this data and analysis is available in the Supplemental Materials for Report SPAS-006.

REPORT (SPAS-005)

Political Affiliation and Attitudes about Language

Fifth report in the Social & Political Attitudes Study (SPAS)

George Orwell is famous for describing how language norms can be used to shape and re-shape political worldviews. In SPAS-005, we asked, “Do attitudes about language differ by political party affiliation?” Download our findings:

Download Report (SPAS-005)

Suggested Citation: Saide, A., & McCaffree, K. 2020. Political Affiliation and Attitudes about Language. Skeptic Research Center, SPAS-005.

Technical and statistical information on this data and analysis is available in the Supplemental Materials for Report SPAS-005.

REPORT (SPAS-004)

Attitudes on Inequality and Political Affiliation

Fourth report in the Social & Political Attitudes Study (SPAS)

Do beliefs in the prevalence of inequality, and demand for equality, differ by political party affiliation? To investigate this, we assessed attitudes on inequality among self-identified Republicans, Democrats, and those who reported no political party identification in particular. We controlled for educational attainment, sex, and age. Check out our findings by downloading the report:

Download Report (SPAS-004)

Suggested Citation: Saide, A., & McCaffree, K. 2020. Attitudes on Inequality and Political Affiliation. Skeptic Research Center, SPAS-004.

Technical and statistical information on this data and analysis is available in the Supplemental Materials for Report SPAS-004.

REPORT (SPAS-003)

A Paradox of Tolerance?

Third report in the Social & Political Attitudes Study (SPAS)

Report SPAS-002 found that individuals of both major political parties expressed socially tolerant attitudes towards individuals with other political views. In this new report (SPAS-003), we asked the question: “Are there attitudinal differences between people that are the most versus least tolerant towards people with opposite political views?” Download the findings:

Download Report (SPAS-003)

Suggested Citation: Saide, A., & McCaffree, K. 2020. A Paradox of Tolerance? Skeptic Research Center, SPAS-003.

Technical and statistical information on this data and analysis is available in the Supplemental Materials for Report SPAS-003.

REPORT (SPAS-002)

Political Affiliation & Political Intolerance

Second report in the Social & Political Attitudes Study (SPAS)

In this report, Dr. Anondah Saide and Dr. Kevin McCaffree examine whether political party identification is associated with tolerant attitudes towards individuals with different political views. The data reported on here came from the Social & Political Attitudes Study (SPAS) which surveyed a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults.

Download Report (SPAS-002)

Suggested Citation: Saide, A., & McCaffree, K. 2020. Political Affiliation and Political Intolerance. Skeptic Research Center, SPAS-002.

Technical and statistical information on this data and analysis is available in the Supplemental Materials for Report SPAS-002.

REPORT (SPAS-001)

Division in the Democratic Party

First report in the Social & Political Attitudes Study (SPAS)

Many pundits have suggested that a divided Democratic party contributed to the “surprise” election of Donald Trump in 2016, and that such division may contribute to Trump’s re-election in 2020. In the Social and Political Attitudes Study (SPAS), we surveyed a nationally representative sample of adults to examine the question, “Are Democrats more divided than Republicans?”

Download Report (SPAS-001)

Suggested Citation: Saide, A., & McCaffree, K. 2020. Division in the Democratic Party. Skeptic Research Center, SPAS-001.

Technical and statistical information on this data and analysis is available in the Supplemental Materials for Report SPAS-001.

Follow-up on Report (SPAS-001)

by Kevin McCaffree & Anondah Saide

We received a lot of mail in response to our first report of the Skeptic Research Center. We are glad that you have found this work interesting and thank you for engaging with us via email. This enables us to comment a little more on this project. Download our responses to some of your questions.


We are interested in hearing your suggestions for future research studies. Please send us an email to [email protected].

Science is fundamentally a collaborative endeavor. Your contributions, whether concrete (i.e., monetary) or abstract (i.e., ideas) are important to us. There are many ways you can become involved or contribute to the Skeptic Research Center. Fund our studies. Provide feedback. Submit an idea by email.

6 Comments
Newest
Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jeff
August 4, 2020 4:54 am

I’m a 62 years old physician in women’s health. Lot’s of experience discussing politics and debating with others. That experience has led me to conclude that the majority of liberal thinkers, who would be most likely to advocate open borders and aid to anyone in other countries who are in need (despite overwhelming U.S. debt), have a particular gestalt/mindset. It is my overwhelming experience that, in general, these individuals are unhappy, even angry, and feel that they and / or others they know have been dealt with unfairly by society/ the government. Often, poor life choices have resulted in present circumstances they do not enjoy, compounded by guilt.  This causes them to be intolerant of those who stress personal responsibility and individualism, such as conservatives/Christians/Jews/ and other groups who disagree with their viewpoints. I would have been surprised if your survey had not reached these conclusions.

Anondah
August 12, 2020 8:49 pm
Reply to  Jeff

Hi Jeff, thank you for sharing your perspective on here.

Sima Dimitrijev
August 1, 2020 7:55 pm

Comment regarding “A Paradox of Tolerance?”

What I think may be happening is that the most intolerant group of people wish the whole world, not just US, to work according to what they think is right. These people believe in “top-down design” of social order, and that this global order can protect the key universal rights of every individual, such as the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and so on.  These people are intolerant and even irritated by political debate, which disrupts the order they want to have. Importantly, they see their views as generally valid, for the whole world, and don’t see the relevance of borders between countries. Accordingly, they are OK for immigrants in need to be accepted in US. 

A problem here is that, implicitly, they don’t recognize the right of citizens in a given country (US included) to decide how to organize the country they live in. In other words, they think their way is not only the right way but also the only way. They don’t see that diverse societies emerge in a bottom-up way: focus on your own wellbeing first, then focus on family welfare, followed by prosperity of the work team; after that comes the safety of the country (an example is “America First”), and only after that come the problems of global society. What these most intolerant people don’t see is that other countries, and even most people in their own country, do not accept their views and even see them as a wish to control the whole world for their own benefit.

In a sentence, the most intolerable people seem to be globalist without limits, but only if the world works as a global village according to their rules (and possibly for their own benefit first). 

Anondah
August 3, 2020 3:21 pm

Thank you for sharing this perspective, Sima!

Vinney Cavallo
July 31, 2020 8:40 pm

This is excellent work and I’m glad you’re doing it.

There was one caveat in the summary that I thought was quite understated:

“Republicans may be more likely to interpret the perceived inequality questions as referring to overt discriminatory attitudes, while Democrats may be more likely to interpret it as referring to a lack of equal outcomes”

This couldn’t be more important, and deserves an entire study unto itself. It also seems to be at the core of our current political divide. If Republicans and Democrats look at the same scenario and the former decides “there’s currently no discrimination [but there is clearly unequal outcome]” and the latter decides “there is unequal outcome [therefore there must be discrimination]”, not only are they having two different conversations, but that hidden discrepency is fueling a “disagreement” between them that can’t be reconciled until the two are speaking directly to one another.

I hope that future studies help to make this distinction unambiguously clear in order to help us move forward together, rather than further siloing the two sides of the conversation.

Last edited 2 months ago by Vinney Cavallo
Anondah
August 1, 2020 5:25 pm
Reply to  Vinney Cavallo

Thanks for sharing your perspective, Vinney!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how Akismet processes your comment data. Comments are closed 45 days after an article is published.

Get eSkeptic

Be in the know.

eSkeptic delivers great articles, videos, podcasts, reviews, event announcements, and more to your inbox.

Sign me up!

Donate to Skeptic

Please support the work of the Skeptics Society. Make the world a more rational place and help us defend the role of science in society.

Detecting Baloney

Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic) by Deanna and Skylar (High Tech High Media Arts, San Diego, CA)

The Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic)

For a class project, a pair of 11th grade physics students created the infographic shown below, inspired by Michael Shermer’s Baloney Detection Kit: a 16-page booklet designed to hone your critical thinking skills.

FREE PDF Download

Wisdom of Harriet Hall

Top 10 Things to Know About Alternative Medicine

Harriet Hall M.D. discusses: alternative versus conventional medicine, flu fear mongering, chiropractic, vaccines and autism, placebo effect, diet, homeopathy, acupuncture, “natural remedies,” and detoxification.

FREE Video Series

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Understanding the difference could save your life! In this superb 10-part video lecture series, Harriet Hall M.D., contrasts science-based medicine with so-called “complementary and alternative” methods.

FREE PDF Download

Top 10 Myths of Terrorism

Is Terrorism an Existential Threat?

This free booklet reveals 10 myths that explain why terrorism is not a threat to our way of life or our survival.

FREE PDF Download

The Top 10 Weirdest Things

The Top Ten Strangest Beliefs

Michael Shermer has compiled a list of the top 10 strangest beliefs that he has encountered in his quarter century as a professional skeptic.

FREE PDF Download

Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future (paperback cover)

Who believes them? Why? How can you tell if they’re true?

What is a conspiracy theory, why do people believe in them, and can you tell the difference between a true conspiracy and a false one?

FREE PDF Download

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

Mind altering experiences are one of the foundations of widespread belief in the paranormal. But as skeptics are well aware, accepting them as reality can be dangerous…

FREE PDF Download

Top 10 Myths About Evolution

Top 10 Myths About Evolution (and how we know it really happened)

If humans came from apes, why aren’t apes evolving into humans? Find out in this pamphlet!

FREE PDF Download

Learn to be a Psychic in 10 Easy Lessons

Learn to do Psychic “Cold Reading” in 10
Easy Lessons

Psychic readings and fortunetelling are an ancient art — a combination of acting and psychological manipulation.

FREE PDF Download

The Yeti or Abominable Snowman

5 Cryptid Cards

Download and print 5 Cryptid Cards created by Junior Skeptic Editor Daniel Loxton. Creatures include: The Yeti, Griffin, Sasquatch/Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, and the Cadborosaurus.

Copyright © 1992–2020. All rights reserved. | P.O. Box 338 | Altadena, CA, 91001 | 1-626-794-3119. The Skeptics Society is a non-profit, member-supported 501(c)(3) organization (ID # 95-4550781) whose mission is to promote science & reason. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Privacy Policy.