Who Doesn’t Want to Hear the Other Side’s View?

People with left-wing/liberal views are more likely to block or unfriend their ideological counterparts than those with right-wing/conservative views

Noah Carl
Noah Carl
Apr 28, 2017 · 6 min read

[Last updated: 25th April, 2020.]

The day after the 2015 UK General Election, Rebecca Roache (who is now a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Royal Holloway) wrote a blog post entitled, ‘If you’re a Conservative, I’m not your friend’. She began her blog post with the following statement:

One of the first things I did after seeing the depressing election news this morning was check to see which of my Facebook friends ‘like’ the pages of the Conservatives or David Cameron, and unfriend them. (Thankfully, none of my friends ‘like’ the UKIP page.)

Was Dr Roache’s decision an isolated incident, or was it part of a more general tendency for people with left-wing/liberal views to block or unfriend their ideological counterparts? In an attempt to answer this question, I tracked down as many relevant surveys and polls as I could. The results are presented below.

In 2012, Pew Research found that liberals were more likely than conservatives to have blocked, unfriended or hidden someone they disagreed with on social networking sites.

In 2014, YouGov found that Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters were much more likely to say they would find it harder to be friends with someone who became a UKIP supporter than vice versa.

In 2014, Pew Research replicated their 2012 result, finding that consistent liberals were more likely than conservatives to have blocked, unfriended or hidden someone they disagreed with on Facebook.

In 2015, StatsSocial found that right-wing twitter users were more likely to follow left-wing pundits than vice versa. On average, 34% of users following the top 50 left-wing pundits were right-wing, whereas only 26% of users following the top 50 right-wing pundits were left-wing.

In 2016, the Public Religion Research Institute found that Democrats were more likely than Republicans to have blocked, unfriended or stopped following someone they disagreed with on social networking sites.

In 2016, Demos found that Conservative supporters were slightly more likely to have retweeted Labour or SNP supporters than vice versa. However, they also found that UKIP supporters were no more likely to have retweeted Labour or SNP supporters than vice versa.

In 2016, YouGov found that Conservative supporters were less likely to say they would be upset if their child married someone who supported Labour, and that Republicans were less likely to say they would be upset if their child married a Democrat.

In 2017, Pew Research found that Democrats were much more likely to say that a friend voting for Trump would put a strain on their friendship than Republicans were to say that a friend voting for Hillary Clinton would put a strain on their friendship.

In 2017, The Dartmouth (a college newspaper) found that Democrats were much more likely than Republicans to say they would be uncomfortable having a roommate with opposing political views to their own.

In 2017, The Cato Institute found that Hillary Clinton voters were much more likely to say they would find it hard to be friends with a Donald Trump voter than vice versa.

In 2018 the The Dartmouth replicated their 2017 result, finding that Democrats were much more likely than Republicans to say they would be disinclined to befriend another student who had political beliefs opposite from their own.

In 2018, YouGov confirmed that Labour and Remain supporters were more less likely to have friends with different political views than were Conservative and Leave supporters.

In 2018, Joseph Yoo and colleagues found that liberals were more likely than conservatives to unfriend others on social media (although they were no more likely to hide or unfollow others on Facebook).

In 2018, NBC News found that Republicans were much more likely than Democrats to say that they would be very comfortable having close friends in the other political party.

In 2019, Gregory Eady and colleagues confirmed that conservatives were more likely to follow left-leaning social media accounts than liberals were to follow right-leaning social media account.

In 2019, YouGov found that Leave voters were much more likely to say they wouldn’t mind at all if a close relative married someone who supported Remain than vice versa. In a later poll, they found that Labour supporters were more likely to say they would be upset if their child married a Conservative supporter than vice versa.

In 2019, Matt Goodwin and Aleksandra Cichocka confirmed that Leave supporters were less likely than Remain supporters to distance themselves from people on the other side when it came to acquaintances, co-workers, neighbours, friends, and potential marriage partners for their children.

In 2019, the Public Religion Research Institute found that Democrats were more likely to say they would be unhappy if their son or daughter married a Republican than vice versa.

In 2019, YouGov found that Labour voters and Remain voters were much more likely than Conservative voters and Leave voters to judge someone negatively for voting differently to them.

In 2020, Ipsos MORI found that, for a range of issues, Remain voters were much more likely than Leave voters to say that they find it hard to respect people who hold opposite views to them.

In 2020, Zach Goldberg analysed data from the Pew American Trends Panel, and found that liberals and Democrats were much more likely than conservatives and Republicans to say they had stopped talking to someone about political and election news because of something they said.

In 2020, Jennifer Larson and colleagues found that conservatives were much more likely than liberals to say that they would have someone with the opposing political views as a close personal friend, and to say they would date someone with the opposin political views.

In 2020, Pew Research confirmed that Democrats were more likely to say they would not consider being in a committed relationship with a Republican than vice versa, and that those who voted for Clinton were much more likely to say they would not consider being in a comitted relationship with someone who voted for Trump than vice versa.

It should be noted that not all the evidence goes in the same direction. For example, a 2012 paper by Shanto Iyengar and colleagues reported that Republicans were more likely than Democrats to say they would be unhappy if their child married someone from the opposite party. And a 2016 survey by Lynn Vavreck found no difference between supporters of the two parties.

Overall however, the weight of evidence (especially the most recent evidence) indicates that Dr Roache’s decision was not an isolated incident. Of course, it might simply be that people with left-wing/liberal views are more willing to admit to disengaging from their ideological opponents.

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