Hey everybody -- take the cool CCP/APPC "Political Polarization Literacy" test!
Sunday, May 8, 2016 at 10:37PM
Dan Kahan

Because we, unlike certain other sites that I won’t deign to identify, actually listen to our 14 billion regular readers, CCP Blog is adding yet another member to its stable of wildly popular games (which, of course, include MAPKIA!, WSMD? JA!, & HFC! CYPHIMU?): the CCP/APPC “Political Polarization Literacy” Test! 

Official game motto: “Because the one thing we all ought to agree on is what we disagree about!”

Ready . . . set . . . open your test booklet and begin!

Match the policies on this list . . .



to the plotted lines in this figure:

Take your time, no rush.

Keep going.  

Scroll down when the proctor declares that the exam is over.

If you finish early, feel free to click on the random ass pictures that I've inserted to prevent you from inadverently spotting the answers before completing the test!

On their way to Canada, possibly?

Time’s up!

Okay, here’s what I’m going to do.  First, I’m going to start by showing you the “answer key,” which consists of the original figure with labels.

Second, I’m going to tell you how to score your answers.

To do that, I’ll display separate figures for (a) policies that are strongly polarizing; (b) policies that are weakly polarizing; (c) policies that reflect bipartisan ambivalence; and (d) policies that reflect bipartisan support. In connection with each of these figures, I’ll supply scoring instructions.

So . . .

“Answer key”


Point-score figures

1. Strongly polarizing


Award yourself (or your child or pet, if you are scoring his or her test) 1 point for each policy that appears in this set and that you (or said child or pet) matched with any of these five plotted lines regardless of which of the lines you actually matched it with. 

Got that? No? Okay, well, e.g., if you matched “stricter carbon emission standards to reduce global warming” with the “magenta” colored line you get 1 point; but you also get 1 point if you matched it with red, blue, midblue, or cyan-colored lines. Same for every other friggin’ policy in this set—okay?

Good. Now give yourself (et al.) a 3-point bonus if you matched “Gay marriage (allowing couples of the same sex to marry each other)” with any of the plotted lines depicted in this figure.

2. Weakly polarizing


Award yourself (et al.) 1.5 points for each policy in this set that you (enough of this) matched with either of the two plotted lines in this figure.

3. Bipartisan ambivalence


Award yourself 0.75 points if you got this one.

4. Bipartisan support

Award yourself 3 points if you matched “Approval of an amendment to the U.S. constitution that would allow Congress and state legislatures to prohibit corporations from contributing money to candidates for elected office” with either of the plotted lines in this figure.

Subtract 5 points if you failed to match “Requiring children who are not exempt for medical reasons to be vaccinated against measles, mumps, and rubella” with one of the two lines in this figure.

Subtract 5 points if you matched “Gay marriage (allowing couples of the same sex to marry each other)” with either of the two lines in this figure.


17: you are a cheater and are banned from this site until Pete Rose is inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Hell Freezes Over, or Donald Trump is elected President, whichever happens first.

14.75: you are either a “political polarization genius,” pr = 0.25, or a liar, pr = 0.75.

10-14.74: Damn! You are one of the 14 billion regular readers of this blog!

5-10: Meh.

0-4: Not awful.

-10: You win! Obviously you have better things to do with your time than waste them viewing the sad spectacle of unreason that our democracy has become!  (But what the hell are you doing on this site?)

Now, some explanation on the scoring.

It was done by a Hal9001 series super computer,  which designed the “game” (obviously if you missed anything, that is due to human error).

But note that the Hal9001 put a lot emphasis on two policies in particular:

“Requiring children who are not exempt for medical reasons to be vaccinated against measles, mumps, and rubella”

“Gay marriage (allowing couples of the same sex to marry each other)”

The reason, I’m told by Hal9001, is that getting these ones wrong is a sign that your child or pet (obviously, we aren’t talking about you here!) is over-relying on heuristic, Political Polarization System 1 reasoning.  As a result, your child or pet is succumbing to the extremely common “what everyone knows syndrome,” or WEKS, a bias that consists in, well, treating “what everyone knows” as evidence. 

Or more specifically, treating as evidence the views of the biased sample (in a measurement sense, not necessarily a cognitive or moral one) of people who one happens to be exposed to disproportionately as a result of the natural, understandable tendency to self-select into “discourse communities” populated w/ people who basically have relatively uniform outlooks and motivations and experiences.

For sure WEKS biases people’s opinions on public opinion vaccines.

There is overwhelming empirical evidence of public support for universal immunization across all political, cultural, religious, etc. groups. Yet commentators, treating each other’s views as evidence,  keep insisting that either one group or another (“the conservative don’t-tread-on-me crowd that distrusts all government recommendations,” “limousine liberals,” blah blah) is hostile to vaccines or even  more patently false a “growing distrust of vaccinations” among  “a large and growing number” of “otherwise mainstream parents.”  And lots of people assume, gee, if “everyone knows that” it must be true!

Same on gay marriage.

In the sources that people on the “left” consult, “everyone knows that” there has been an been “an astounding transformation of public opinion.”  They constantly call for "replicating the success of marriage equality" on climate change, e.g.

Actually, the “transformation” on gay marriage was primarily just a bulging of public support among people on the “left.” Support among people who identify as “liberal” grew from 56% to 79%, and among those who identify as Democrat from 43% to 66%, in the period from 2000 to 2015; among self-identified “conservatives” and Republicans, the uptick was much more modest--from 18% to 30% and 21% to 32% respectively.

That’s a shift, sure. But 79%:30%/66%:32% is . . . political polarization.

The “how to replicate gay marriage” on climate change meme rests on a faulty WEKS premise or set of them. 

One is that Gay marriage isn’t as divisive than climate change. It is.  Or if it isn't, it's only because  there is still a higher probability that a “liberal Democrat” and a “conservative Republican” will agree that gay marriage shouldn’t be legalized than they will agree that the U.S. should or shouldn’t adopt “stricter carbon emission standards to reduce global warming.” 

Maybe climate change advocates should "replicate the success" of gun control advocates and affirmative action proponents, too?

Another faulty premise has to do with the instrument of legal change in gay marraiage.

Legalization of gay marriage occurred primarily by judicial action, not legislation: of the 37 states where gay marriage was already legally recognized before the U.S. Supreme Court decided Obergefell v. Hodges, 26 were in that category as a result of judicial decisions invalidating apparently popularly supported legal provisions (like California’s 2008 popular referendum “Prop. 8”) disallowing it.

Those judicial decisions, in my view, were 100% correct: the right to pursue one’s own conception of happiness in this way shouldn’t depend on popular concurrence.

But I don't think it's a good idea to propogate a false narrative about what really happened here or about what today’s reality is.   False narratives, underwritten by WEKS, lead people to make mistakes in their practical decisionmaking.

Indeed, WEKS-- the disposition of people to confuse the views of people who share one's outlooks, motivations, experience as “evidence” of how the world works—on public opinion and other topics too is one of the reasons we have polarization on facts that admit of being assessed with valid empirical evidence.

One of the reasons in other words that we are playing this stupid game.

Article originally appeared on cultural cognition project (http://www.culturalcognition.net/).
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