“Arguments on a daily basis”: How couples who disagree politically navigate news

From Nieman Lab:

If you have a significant other in your life, chances are they probably share your politics: you both lean Democratic or Republican (or independent) together.

Romantic partnerships have long grown out of shared values and attitudes, but polarization has amplified these tendencies. These days, more than ever in the U.S., political sorting is happening more readily across neighborhoods, friendships, and dating and marriage relationships. And as political identity increasingly becomes synonymous with many people’s larger sense of social identity, the stakes for political disagreement seem higher than they once were: Partisan zealots are now more likely to wish the worst on their perceived foes on the other side.

But many couples are not politically in sync with each other, and there has been surprisingly little research about what such “cross-cutting” relationships mean for news consumption and political discussion in such politically mismatched pairings.

Emily Van Duyn of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers a first-of-its-kind analysis of this issue in her article “Negotiating news: How cross-cutting romantic partners select, consume, and discuss news together,” published last month in the journal Political Communication.

She sought to address three questions: How do romantic partners in cross-cutting relationships influence each other’s selection and consumption of news? How do those patterns of news selection and consumption shape the conversations about politics and political news that happen between partners? And, ultimately, what does the role of news mean for these cross-cutting couples — is it helpful or harmful to their relationship?

To answer these questions, she conducted in-depth interviews with 67 U.S. residents in cross-cutting relationships. She chose to interview just one individual from each couple, in part because people might not be so candid with their comments if they knew their partner was being interviewed, particularly in cases where people strategically avoid talking about politics to maintain the relationship. Of the 67 interviewees, slightly less than half were married while the others were dating or cohabitating. All but five participants were in opposite-sex relationships.

Van Duyn found that cross-cutting couples deal with two main difficulties when navigating news: negotiated exposure, as couples try to influence news selection and consumption in the relationship, and two-step conflict, in which issues surrounding news — what type, how much, from which sources, etc. — not only led to discussion about politics but also to significant friction between partners.

Consider first the problem of negotiating what news to introduce into the relationship — or whether to avoid news altogether. “For one, the process of selecting and consuming news was especially difficult for cross-cutting romantic partners,” Van Duyn writes, “because it presented a choice that involved recognizing political differences and finding a way to navigate these differences. In turn, who selected news, what was selected, and how those choices were negotiated over time became a political act as much as an interpersonal one.”

For one couple studied, that meant sharing control over what TV news channel was playing during the day: the conservative woman would decide in the morning, and her liberal boyfriend took charge in the afternoon. For others, that meant finding shared news rituals they could both agree on — like watching the evening news on ABC while preparing dinner each night — while allowing space for individual podcast or social media consumption that tailored to each other’s interests.

And, for others, it meant a pulling away from news and politics altogether. One respondent said that he and his Democratic girlfriend “never share articles” on social media and “never watch the news together at all.” This was not intentional at first, he said, but the avoidance arose gradually out of a worry that sharing articles would incite conflict: “I guess we’re both afraid to bring up politics…I’d say I try to avoid it. I think she does too. So, we kind of both avoid it at all costs just so we don’t get into any arguments whatsoever.”

Link to the rest at Nieman Lab

Perhaps the OP is a character prompt or “couple prompt”.

PG suggests that politicizing everything is a bad idea for society. He also suggests that people who put politics over relationships or inject politics into relationships take politics way too seriously.

PG can honestly say that he has no idea what the political beliefs his closest friends are.There was a time when injecting politics (or religion) into a social setting was considered bad manners.

Perhaps politics is the new religion for a great many people.

28 thoughts on ““Arguments on a daily basis”: How couples who disagree politically navigate news”

  1. Perhaps because I’m Canadian, I fear the issue is that the American-weighted discourse often confuse POLITICS (the performance of parties) with politics (the actions of govts).

    Within my extended family, we have people of very different views of life and how it works. They are strong believers in pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, forgetting that they come from a family that has a C-suite member with much greater wealth than most families, kids that went to private schools, etc. and are out in the big bad world of business with other bluebloods. Their politics reflect those delusions about their own abilities to “make it on their own” and that others can do the same.

    I grew up in a blue-collar family with a father and mother who thought government workers and politicians were about two rungs lower than pedophile, yet I have spent most of my life trying to make govt more effective rather than avoid it or minimize it. I don’t believe in “BIG GOVT” as some people assume, but I do believe in a role for govt to help level the playing field or at least fill in a few ditches and moats.

    We can have good conversations, when it is about politics (the role of the state) not POLITICS. When it strays into POLITICS (the performance of political parties), it doesn’t take long for a desire for harmony to shorten the conversation. I use “family” as the example rather than “friends” as friends often hew to “birds of a feather” idioms, while your family you’re mostly stuck with.

  2. My perspective is that of a woman married for almost 50 years to the same man (our anniversary will be January 12). Initially, we were both young (early 20s). He had been to college, I had attended ONE class (economics) at a local community college.

    We tended to agree on most things – cultural, social, political, and religious. In some ways, I was more radical, supporting feminism early on. Although he said he agreed, when push came to shove, we reverted to traditional mom-at-home, dad working situations.

    Until he needed me to work, then it was HIS idea. It worked out, well enough. We had spirited discussions, but managed to resolve them amicably. It helped that we were in agreement on religion, child-raising, and money issues.

    After 9/11, we both were still on the same page politically. Over time, he drifted to the anti-Bush side (I also disagreed with Bush, but for different reasons). The next year, I found myself unemployed in a mass layoff of teachers (almost NEVER happens to science teachers). With my free time, I began to explore blogs – and found, for the first time, some serious opposition to what the media was pushing.

    That led us to travel down different pathways, politically and culturally. I tried to keep it all on the down-low, but after a few times when I rebutted the Official Narrative from Media, he began to get defensive, and this led to some uneasy detente, when we adopted the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell strategy to politics.

    I acknowledge that I was the one that changed, and that was the cause of much of the conflict. For that reason, I was also the one that made most of the compromises.

    The ads on TV during election seasons make that quite difficult. He often comments on the actions/words of those he opposes, but is unwilling to hear alternative viewpoints. I believe that his resistance to hearing from opponents stems from his fear that they might breech his defenses.

    To disassociate from viewpoints/principles he’s held for decades would be a blow to his sense of self. For him, it was always US (the GOOD Guys) against THEM (the BAD Ones). To admit that the other side did make some good points meant he no longer would have the unshakable position of The Righteous.

    • I spent my whole life trying to understand what you are pointing out. This is a major Theme running through my stuff.

      Hans Roslin would lecture about world health before highly educated people, and he realized that no mater what he said, the audience held onto their beliefs. He started doing quizzes during the lectures, and pointing out how everybody was wrong.

      He could tell when a person went to University by the answers they gave to the questions.

      The mindset of factfulness | Hans Rosling | TGS.ORG

      Track down his book:

      Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think

    • Most of them want both. The “handouts” may not have currency associated with them, often being transfer of assets or other exclusive rights (Teapot Dome, anyone? Bueller? Anyone?). Overseas, it’s often worse; do not ask a Brit who lived through the Thatcher years about the privitization of the rail service… unless you’re trying to provoke a temper tantrum, whether that particular Brit agreed with it or not!

      • As a Brit who lived through the Thatcher years and saw the privatization of British Railways, my take is that the nationalization of the the Big Four railway companies after the war was outright theft to avoid paying the companies what they were owed for their service during the war.

        Saying that, privatization is neither good nor bad, it all depends on how well the company is run. We can all blame Reagan and Thatcher for removing all the safe guards that had been put in place to stop companies gambling with money, but what do I know?

        I know that I know nothing!

        • In the US, the gambles of the Reagan era seem to have paid off pretty well. And whose money were they gambling with? Every investment is a gamble.

          • Better than the “shovel ready” largesse of a recent do-nothing award-winner or the $5T budgets of the gerontocracy.

            Those 80’s gambles gave us the productivity boom of the 90’s and a GDP boost that balanced the budget (almost), drove unemployment to the closest thing to zero, and left all other economies in the dust.

            It wasn’t all Reagan and Volcker but they definitely helped.

            • I was always puzzled by those shovel-ready projects. That would mean someone spent lots of time and money designing, engineering, and buying materials for a job they could not afford to build.

              “Hey, put those drawings for the Lancombe project in the corner with all the other shovel-ready dogs. And make sure we have warehouse space for the GE generators we bought.”

              • I always took ‘shovel ready” as an euphemism for “friends of the party”.

                Hindsight bears it out considering how many of those projects *still* haven’t costed out and how many were bailouts like SOLYNDRA. Ditto with the latest cash showers.

                Throwing money at the FOTPs is bad enough, but both parties have been doing it forever. What is new is the gerontocracy going after the *competitors* of the FOTPs, even at the expense of long term national interrests.

                That is a new line crossed and the consequences won’t be pretty.

  3. He also suggests that people who put politics over relationships or inject politics into relationships take politics way too seriously.

    Thirty or forty years ago I would have wholeheartedly agreed with this without reservation. However, at this time, one’s politics seem to usually be determined by moral and cultural values, and those are things that can really make or break a relationship. As a result, people use politics as a proxy for that.

    For example, in my case, I would never try to date a girl who identified as “very liberal,” because I can almost guarantee that her ideas about child-rearing, religion, and other such matters will be vastly different than mine.

    • T – I understand your point, but I’ve not found it terribly difficult to find things I like about people who have opinions that are quite different than mine. It would be boring for me to have serious friend relationships only with people who agreed with me about everything or nearly everything.

      • I completely agreed with that until October 7. I really never cared about who friends or family voted for. That was because we all operated within the bounds of a common over-arching moral and ethical structure. Want high taxes? OK. I want low, but so what? Both fall within the bounds of that same ethical structure. Life has more to it than Laffer Curves.

        Watching since October 7, it appears many people are indeed operating outside those common bounds. (I’m not sure if it is a highly publicized splinter of the population, or a substantial block.) I confess to being surprised. I can think of no historical injustice that justifies killing babies.

        While I haven’t had personal experience with anyone supporting Hamas actions, I’m pretty sure I will challenge them if I do. I can nod and move onto something else when taxes, welfare, or library books come up. But one has to stop somewhere.

        • Some people live in an alternate reality bubble: it’s not just holocaust deniers and QAnon believers. There’s the “fake lunar landings”, the “HIV was created by the CIA”, crack cocaine, ditto. Covid didn’t come from China but from the US Army. 9/11 was a false flag operation, russia is right and ukraine is run by nazi’s, Oct 7 didn’t happen. And on and on…

          Anything that doesn’t fit their preconceived notions has to be a lie no matter how convoluted a narrative it takes to fit.

          There real problem isn’t the “true believers” ranting in public, but ones keeping a low profile/milder but equally irrational mindsets. For every one of the former there are dozens, if not hundreds of the latter.

          Humans aren’t rational beings, but rather rationalizing ones. The difference is in subject and degree of irrationality. “Everybody is crazy but thee and me… and I’m not too sure about thee.”

          It doesn’t pay to argue, just avoid them like the plague. They are.
          If civilization collapses, you’ll know who to blame.

          I’m not the only one interrsted in the collapse of nations:


        • I wish I could have shared your surprise on Oct. 7, but the only surprise to me were the people who appear to have awakened. In the days and months after 9/11 I remember dealing with people in online fora from the Arab world who really do sound like Nazis and have no issue at all with Hamas. They would lie and claim Arafat & Co. wanted peace, and I would link to the charter of Hamas.

          Somehow they would still find a way to excuse that teeny little bit of genocide Hamas calls for. The ones I spoke to would insist they stand shoulder to shoulder with the Palestinians, and I would mockingly ask how many their governments (Saudi Arabia et al) were allowing into their countries. Oh, none? How much aid were they sending? Oh, none? What efforts were they making to stop the indoctrination of children to become suicide bombers? None? What value is there in their support, again?

          I am not amused that so many of their fellow travelers are taking up space in our universities, and yet are not learning anything to counteract their Nazification. I watched the videos with Ben Shapiro debating the kids at Oxford & Cambridge last month. And he’d always expose the Arab / left wing students by asking them what part of Israel is “occupied” — hint, it’s not the Gaza strip, because Israel left there in 2005.

          The answer was always “all of it.” No nuance, not wiggle room, straight up, all of it. All of Israel must cease to exist. From the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. ALL of it. These people had no shame or hesitation in saying this. Not even a blush.

          That part didn’t surprise me, though. One of them kept claiming that Israel killed more than Hamas, so Israel should stop fighting. Shapiro asked her if collateral civilian deaths meant Britain should not have fought WWII. The twit insisted Britain never killed any civilians in WWII, which was fascinating because she spoke with a British accent. Her family has lived in England long enough for her to have an accent, and she’s allegedly an elite-level student, but she didn’t “understand that reference” when Shapiro suggested she talk to the people of Dresden.

          I also consider October 7 a litmus test: If you cheer Hamas, I don’t want to know you. Enlightening the ignorant on these matters is an uphill battle, so if you do meet such people, be prepared for them to react like Linda’s husband below: they will cherish and nurture their ignorance. Dragging them out of Plato’s cave is a Herculean task. And our universities are due the Augean Stables treatment.

          • The *one* thing that surprised me was the helmet cams.
            They actually wanted to document their…deeds.

            For status when they returned, obviously. Or to rewatch fondly in their old age.

            As bad as Rwanda was, as bad as the russian serial killer and adict “Storm Z” units in Ukraine are, they never felt the need to document their horrors. They have at least a vague idea of the evil they do, however they rationalize it.

            But in the seventh century mindset of arab tribal culture, the videos count as proof of their “achievements”. Gory violence isn’t a bug, but an intrinsic *feature* of their mindset.

            The IDF are currently screening the *less* disturbing ones for the idiotpoliticians and cheerleading media, hoping to change minds.


            Note who didn’t bother to show up.

            Even if they had, they would have smiled and sighed proudly.

            • The nature of that culture has been well-known for decades:


              Some arguments aren’t worth having.

              The IDF is going into the underground tunnels to clear them up by hand. I wouldn’t have bothered. I would have filled them with halon gas. Or better yet, with pressurized methane. And a few timed bombs. Quick, effective, and “mostly peaceful” ala Dresden.

              The problem with the gaza problem is they keep giving it to “diplomats” when all that is needed is a few engineers. 😉

              No helmet cams needed.

            • See, that article shows why I’m not that surprised about the body cams: because at the end of the day Hamas knows that useful idiots and the low-info crowd in the West will believe whatever nonsense they say. Just like the claim about Israel striking the hospital and “500 people dead.”

              They know they can ask for a “humanitarian” ceasefire and that people will pressure Israel to give them one. They know that the Associated Press and fellow travelers will steadfastly avoid telling people that Hamas likes to use civilians as human shields. They’ll hide in hospitals, schools, wherever sympathetic victims will be gathered en masse. They took car keys away from the Gazans so they couldn’t escape the areas when the Israelis warned them to. And Hamas’s useful idiots are so morally stunted that they don’t blame Hamas for the resulting deaths, just Israel. They know, because the past is prologue.

              I am hoping this time the IDF and the Israeli government have the resolve to destroy Hamas. And agreed re: arguments not worth having. Been there, done that.

              Re: tunnels, I have been assuming Israel is concerned about whether hostages are trapped there. However, I’ve read that they have destroyed about 100 of the tunnels. And on the engineering front:

              Army engineers are beginning a wide-scale operation to destroy Hamas tunnels in areas of the Gaza Strip that have come under Israeli control since the start of the ground offensive, the Walla news site reports.

              The combat engineers are using various types of robots and explosive devices to destroy the tunnels, detonate any booby traps installed by Hamas, and kill terrorists, the report says.

              “Maybe at first they were able to harass us, sting us by firing from tunnel exits, but after we established control of the areas, the engineering operation started,” a senior officer in the Southern Command tells Walla.

              “We are going to collapse the entrances and the tunnels on them. It will become a death zone. They made a mistake, they chose to be in a place they cannot escape from. They will die in the tunnels,” he said.

              • My take on the “civilians” is to remember how the french resistance dealt with the collaborators: you’re either part of the solution or part of the problem. And big problems get solved bit by bit.

                On the useful idiots side, there is the matter of the other arab states: “We’re behind you all the way; 1000 miles away. And don’t even think of coming this way; we saw what you did to Transjordan and Lebanon when they took you in.”

                History does not support them; they have a well documented track record.

                Despite that, the west let them in. Useful idiots indeed.

          • I wasn’t surprised by the brutality of the attack. I was surprised by the support from college campuses and the Left in the US. This has morphed into a political position.

            • I wasn’t surprised. A lot of campus leftists see Israel as a relic of imperialism and colonialism, and Hamas and the Palestinians as oppressed victims.

              As a result, the atrocities committed by the Palestinians are viewed by campus leftists as an excessive but understandable reaction against Israeli tyranny, while Israel’s retaliation against Hamas is viewed as inherently illegitimate repression. (I almost gagged typing that.)

              The combination of intersectionalism and anti-imperialism is utterly brain-rotting.

  4. Interesting joke. He also ran a campaign to encourage people to vote by text message. That is what led to the prosecution.

    • That is what led to the prosecution.

      Watch the episode, where Mackey goes into detail, but it was a joke. They mention that a woman made the same joke, but about Trump, and she was never charged or convicted.

      – That’s what’s interesting, and makes it great for Story.

      I put this in my Story folder. I’m getting glimmers of a classic Comedy of Errors. I’ll let it simmer and see what comes out.

      • Then prosecution wasn’t based on any episode. It was based on a series of Tweets coordinated with others designed to hold down voter turnout.

        • This is why comments like this are so useful to me, and go into my Story folders. I can’t make this stuff up.


  5. Perhaps politics is the new religion for a great many people.

    Politics is the new religion.

    I was born in 1956. Adults discouraged talking about religion, not because it was socially unacceptable, but because of the blasphemy laws that they grew up under. You could be arrested and go to prison for attacking someone’s religion, the way that people attack someone’s politics today.

    Douglas Mackey told a joke about Hillary Clinton and now faces prison time.

    Ep. 38 The First Amendment is done. Douglas Mackey is about to go to prison for mocking Hillary Clinton on the internet. W talked to him right before his sentencing. Remember as you watch that this could be you.

    Most of the blasphemy laws were taken off the books after WWII, yet some of those laws are still on the books, but simply not enforced.

    This all goes into my Story folders.


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