In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that Americans are deeply divided along political lines. Democrats and Republicans often perceive each other as more extreme and different than they actually are, leading to a range of harmful consequences for our democracy. The Strengthening Democracy Challenge (SDC) seeks to address this issue by identifying short, scalable interventions that can reduce anti-democratic attitudes and partisan animosity.
Jan Voelkel, a researcher at Stanford University in the Polarization and Social Change lab, explains the motivation behind the SDC: “We no longer want to spend resources solely on testing our own ideas. We want to collaborate with as many people as possible to test the best ideas the field has to offer.” The SDC, launched in 2021 by a team of researchers from Stanford University, MIT, and Northwestern University to crowdsource and test interventions that can bridge the gap between Democrats and Republicans.
The SDC conducted one of the largest social science online experiments of its kind, testing 25 interventions to reduce anti-democratic attitudes, support for political violence, and partisan animosity. The interventions were designed to target specific attitudes and behaviors that contribute to political polarization and division.
We explore this groundbreaking challenge in depth, discussing the interventions tested, the reception they received, and the potential for positive change.
Listen in to learn more about the challenge, its goals, and its potential to transform our democracy.
Jan G. Voelkel is a PhD candidate in Sociology and a member of the Polarization and Social Change lab at Stanford University.
Jan’s research has been published in journals, such as Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Nature Human Behaviour, PNAS Nexus, and Psychological Science. His research has been covered by media outlets, such as The New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Atlantic.
At Stanford, Jan is the Michelle and Kevin Douglas Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellow and a former Philanthropy and Civil Society Fellow and Stanford Impact Labs Fellow.