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27 Nov, 2019 21:39

Political affiliation bias is the last type of discrimination society approves of – and study shows we’re embracing it fervently

Political affiliation bias is the last type of discrimination society approves of – and study shows we’re embracing it fervently

In an ultra-PC society where even the suggestion of racial, ethnic or gender bias can get a person fired or ostracized, another type of discrimination – a political affiliation-based one – is thriving, according to a new study.

Discrimination may have become taboo in US society, but it hasn’t gone away. A new study shows discriminatory behavior thrives in the one area where it remains socially acceptable to judge people based on shared attributes: political affiliation. Politics remains one of the few personal characteristics not protected by equal opportunity hiring laws, and if this study is any indication, lawmakers will want to get on top of that quickly.

Shared political ideology outweighs seemingly more important factors like professional qualifications in hiring decisions, researchers from Clemson University and the University of Kansas confirmed in a study published this month in the Journal of Applied Psychology. Unchecked, this kind of discrimination is liable to produce powerful echo chambers, in which groupthink eventually becomes a prerequisite for employment.

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Study participants readily picked a job candidate with whom they shared a political affiliation over a more qualified candidate without that affiliation when presented with Facebook profiles containing clear indicators of the prospective hire’s political alignment. These might include statements about leading a campus Democrat or Republican group, or party symbols like the Democratic donkey or GOP elephant. The closer the participant, acting as a recruiter, identified with a party, the higher ratings they gave to candidates who touted their membership in that party – qualifications were nigh on irrelevant.

The effect held true even when candidate profiles didn’t include explicit statements of political loyalty. Recruiter participants still picked candidates who agreed with them based on profiles sporting either a pro-choice or pro-life statement; pro-Second Amendment or pro-gun control material; or support of Black Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter, a second experiment revealed. Candidates whose views aligned with the study participant were rated not just more likable but also more likely to do well in the job. Again, qualifications had no bearing on the evaluations – if the subject and the potential hire held conflicting political views, they simply weren’t getting hired.

These results probably don’t come as a surprise for anyone who’s been paying attention to the increasingly polarized political scene in the US, where it is now considered downright ordinary to call members of the “other” party insulting names – Nazi, libtard, snowflake, fascist – just for the sin of political disagreement. The media environment has actively encouraged this polarization – it gets clicks, even as it drives destructive wedges into society – while at the same time condemning any other form of attribute-based preference as unthinkable bigotry.

The researchers warned that political discrimination could cloud the judgment of recruiters unaware of its pervasive influence, becoming “a new face of discrimination in the workplace.” While a person is not born with a particular political affiliation as one is born with a certain skin color or chromosome arrangement, political ideology can be nearly as immutable – just try convincing a conservative of the merits of socialism, or persuading a liberal to grasp the need for a wall along the US border with Mexico.

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Another recent study confirmed that both Democrats and Republicans find arguing with the other side to be a “stressful and frustrating” experience. Only independents were able to take opposing views in stride, with a majority finding opposing views to be “interesting and informative.

Meanwhile, the echo chamber effect has already become an inescapable reality at institutions from academia to media – right-wing professors made up just over 10 percent of university faculties in a 2014 study, while the mainstream media’s groupthink has led to countless reporting blunders on everything from Russiagate to Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

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