by Ethan Mikolay
26 October 2017
According to Pew Research Center, who surveyed about 5,000 adults, 57% of Republicans and 67% of Democrats have a friend group comprised primarily of those with similar political views, according to the study published by CNN on October 5th.
This study highlights a tendency for people to surround themselves with others who share their political beliefs.
Even at Oswego East, students and staff have fostered their own political beliefs and perspectives, but the trend here seems to contradict the findings of the study.
“My political ideology does not have an impact on who I am friends with. A lot of my friends aren’t Republican like me and it does not affect our friendship. Disagreements lead to discussions to find solutions and compromises,” junior president of the National Teenage Republicans Club Carolyn Humphrey said.
Although she identifies with a specific political party, Humphrey said that she is open to debate and encourages discussion to find common ground.
Similarly, the president of the Young Democrats, junior Enan Srivastava, said that he separates his political ideology from his personal relationships.
“Some of my best friends align with the opposite political party. We get along just fine,” Srivastava said.
Srivastava added that both clubs are friendly with one another. The groups plan to work together on community service projects, hold mock congresses, and learn more about how the political parties operate.
History teacher Matthew Engelhardt, meanwhile, said that he has seen political divisiveness impact a number of friendships and relationships.
“I have all political affiliations in my family, so I grew up with those discussions. I know that you can have different values and still respect one another,” Engelhardt said.
However, while clubs and staff at Oswego East promote open discussion and collaboration, the same cannot be said about the rest of the country.
In 2016, a Pew Research Center study found that about 40% of Republicans and Democrats get one-sided online news from friends and family, according to the same report.
“Internet news sources have helped spread the news, but they’ve also contributed to the growth of fake news,” Srivastava said.
With the introduction of online news sources, it’s critical to know how to navigate through the vast swathes of information.
“I think there are unreliable news sources on both sides. Younger generations tend to form political values through Twitter, but I think it’s important to seek out reliable platforms and have civil and educated conversations,” Humphrey said. “That way, there can be an advancement toward less of a divide.”
In recent years, Twitter has become a controversial but influential outlet for political debate. While it can be used as a medium to share reliable news, it can also be used to increase the political divide.
“With the creation of social media everyone now has a voice. I think this can be a little overwhelming at times, but I ultimately think this is for the better,” senior Clayton Thueson said. “A lot of what I see on Twitter and other news outlets is just trying to invoke [an] emotional response out of their audience.”
On an individual level, students can use objective reasoning to curb this political polarization. However, teachers can also play an important role in developing political beliefs.
“When having discussions, we teach students [in class] how to evaluate biases and different perspectives,” Engelhardt added. “It’s important for them to be able to recognize issues from all sides.”
Ethan Mikolay is a staff writer for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the HOWL