Saturday, April 2, 2016

Political Polarization in a Small Community

Political polarization is very prominent in the United States. The stances are clear and portrayed by either political party, Democratic or Republican, or by ideology, liberal or conservative. In class, we were shown a diagram of political polarization as the years go on. This diagram clearly showed each party gradually moving to their own extreme end of the spectrum. This is caused by several reasons, but I think the main reasons are because communities share mutual ideologies and push the majority ideology, media continues to endorse this same community ideology, and because the spiral of silence is most imminent within a small community. After spending a couple days in my own community, I have come to the realization that these reasons are optimized in a small community.
People like being with other people who share the same common interests with them, so it would make sense that eventually people would move to places where their ideology is shared. Here, in the center of the nation (my community being the center of the Sandhills), the shared party and ideology would be Republican and Conservative. Our community is a ranching community where we manually work hard all day and deal with no corporations or franchises. My town is 493 people and I can count the number of Democrats within the community. In fact, I can count the number on one finger, and it happens to be a teacher within the school system. This is not because I am nosy or have ever really cared too much about it (she was actually my favorite and best teacher), but something like that is common knowledge within a small community. The mutual ideology within our community is not encouraged in a similar way a big city would be, social media plays the smallest part in portraying our shared thoughts. Social media does not play a huge part in it because 10% of the population lives too far into the hills to receive constant internet connection and zero cell service, 25% of adults still own flip phones since the inconsistent cellular service does not glorify a smart phone, and 40% are working outside all day and by the time they get in the house, they are so beat they only want to relax with the family and try to get to bed before the next day of work.  Our community's ideology is shared by mouth and portrayed by actions. The majority of the community attends the high school football game, even if they have no relatives playing, and afterwards a lot will enjoy a nice drink at the one small bar we have in town. Since social media is not a huge deal from where I'm from, the minimal times people actually drive to town, they are talking and discussing local matters because the news spreads fastest like this. Our community does not have the anonymity of the internet, if something is to be said to someone, it is going to be to their face, and other community members are going to hear it. With this being said, the spiral of silence is huge in my community. The one democratic in our town never voices her views because she knows what kind of looks she will get from community members and town leaders. Our community is very old-fashioned and there is little to no drugs (including weed) within it. This would make it hard for any liberal to live there  because they would have very little common views with anyone.
I stated before that social media does not play a huge part in our community, but the media still does. We have one newspaper that goes out to everyone in the county, and one person runs the entire paper and writes every article. This would make it very bias to her ideology. Granted, if her ideology was liberal, the newspaper would fail because no one in the community would agree with it. Posted below is a link to a page that interviews the person who runs the news. It explains how it is the only paper and how it is definitely not a dying paper in our area:

She does have an online Tribune page on Facebook, but it is not read as often as the actual newspaper is. An example of the Hooker County Tribune is posted below:

Our community obviously does not support taking away the right to bear arms, and they are actually encouraged during our annual Sandhills Sharp tail Shootout, which hundreds of people travel across the country to attend. 
As mentioned before, the spiral of silence is very obvious within our community. I would say my community has an on average, higher moral standard. I'm not saying we are better people, but when people do actually do bad things, the entire community knows about it and it is extremely frowned upon. In a small town, gossip spreads fast, so most the time, the parents know the kid did something bad before the kid knows it. Growing up in a community like this makes it hard to slip between the cracks because everyone is noticed. This being said, we are all raised in a relatively similar way, and even if one kid had very lenient parents, chances are that that kid's best friend's parents are strict and so they have to follow their rules as well. When one person is out of the norm, it is very noticeable and it would be hard for that person to continue his/her line of thinking or continue his/her actions. It would be hard because you don't have anyone to support your decisions, therefore you probably won't truly believe they are the right decisions. In a small community, everyone has their own opinions, but they are based off similar things. My community is a very Christian community, I honestly don't know a single atheist that lives there. So, the moral standards are held high and mostly try to encourage God's Will. Obviously, everyone stumbles and falls, but it is highly encourage to strive for this path. Social sanction plays a huge part in living in a small community. With little anonymity, the pressure to either conform or move is pretty strong if you don't and to be isolated and you want to be accepted.
In my community the community shares very similar views, encouraged by our media, and the spiral of silence is quite strong. I think these are the reasons why places like my community, have political polarization.

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