ASU expert discusses partisan conflict in the U.S.

October 8, 2020

This fall there is more on Americans' minds besides cooler weather and autumn colors. With the changing of the season comes talk of elections.

Election season brings with it the discussion of topics like health care, immigration, national security and racial issues. Have varying opinions on these topics always existed amongst political parties in the United States? Does that divergence hold true among racial and ethnic groups as well? Download Full Image

Arizona State University Assistant Professor Narayani Lasala-Blanco, Robert Y. Shapiro  and Joy Wilke take a deeper look in their recent articleThe Nature of Partisan Conflict in Public Opinion: Asymmetric or Symmetric?” published in American Politics Research.

The data for this article was assembled from over a 45-year timespan and tracked Democratic and Republic opinion changes by race and ethnicity for many issue areasThe issue areas included in the analysis are: social safety net spending, health care spending, inequality, standard of living, environmental spending, government scope and performance, immigration, racial issues, abortion, gay rights, gay marriage, women’s role, national security spending, foreign aid, diplomacy and world affairs..

Lasala-Blanco, who is part of the School of Politics and Global Studies, spoke with ASU Now about a few takeaways from their research.

Question: What were some of your key takeaways when looking at the political parties as a whole?

Answer: The main takeaway is that reports in the media and think tanks incorrectly give the impression that all groups are equally polarized on all issues and that this polarization is symmetric — due to Republicans becoming more conservative and Democrats more liberal over time. If it weren’t for people of color, especially Blacks and Hispanics, the partisan conflict would be a lot more bitter and polarization in the country would be more extreme. This is very important as Blacks and Latinos are often portrayed as too liberal or even radical in issues such as immigration, racial issues and welfare when in fact, both Republican and Democrat Black and Latino opinion continue to be more moderate than their fellow white partisans.

Also, taking the time to track partisan opinion over time and for different groups allowed us to find out that symmetric polarization is a rare phenomenon; it only happens for a few issues even among white partisans.

Q: Do these partisan trends hold true when looking at those with and without college degrees?

A: Yes, the only difference is that those without a college degree had a much more conservative starting view on most issue areas. For example, Republicans especially have not changed their positions about race or immigration in the past four decades.

Q: Looking ahead, might we expect a continuation of partisan divergence when looking at political opinion on these issues? Or is there reason to expect less partisan polarization?

A: It seems like partisan divergence is here to stay in certain issues. However, the picture this data paints opens up significant opportunities for more moderate leadership and candidates in both parties to seize this opportunity and get elected, which in turn would contain partisan divergence in the general public. Also, population replacement will matter if trends continue as they are among groups. The bigger the influence Latinos and Blacks have, partisan divergence and extreme partisan conflict should decrease.

Matt Oxford

Assistant Director of Strategic Marketing and Communications, College of Global Futures


Foreign exchange student honored for research completed at ASU

October 8, 2020

Plenty of students at Arizona State University go above and beyond what is expected of them in pursuing excellence through their studies, but few can come close to Elisa Cardamone's recent accomplishment.

A paper that Cardamone wrote for one of her classes through the School of International Letters and Cultures was ranked among the “Highly Commended Entrants” at the Global Undergraduate Awards. And she wrote the entire essay on a flight from New York to Rome. Cardamone, an exchange student from the University of Manchester in Manchester, England, had to relocate to her home country of Italy in the middle of the spring semester due to COVID-19.
 Foreign exchange student Elisa Cardamone is seen in front of a body of water. The sun is low on the horizon and a lit-up city skyline is silhouetted in the distance behind her. Elisa Cardamone was recently honored by the Global Undergraduate Awards for an essay she wrote while studying abroad at ASU, a paper she completed while on a flight back to her home country of Italy as COVID-19 caused students to have to adapt to virtual learning in the spring. Download Full Image

“Such an award has given me much confidence that my work is valuable, and that applying an interdisciplinary approach to research does improve the quality of the work,” Cardamone said.

She has been writing academically in English for only about three years. “This is without any doubt a way of repaying all the efforts I made, and all the times that I have felt some kind of embarrassment or insecurity for my English.”

Cardamone’s essay investigated how the cultural and social concept of disability came to be created through various artistic forms embodied by different past societies. After Cardamone submitted her essay to her teacher, Francoise Mirguet, an associate professor of Hebrew, she took the initiative to do further research and revise her paper before submitting it to the Global Undergraduate Awards competition.

“Elisa is an extraordinary student! I think she exemplifies a true key to success: to seek opportunities to promote one's work and research, beyond what is offered in class,” Mirguet said. 

Once back in Italy, Cardamone continued to regularly attend Mirguet’s class, “Compassion: A Dialogue Between the Humanities, the Sciences, and the Arts,” via Zoom, even though it was meeting at 2 a.m. in her new time zone.

“Elisa was always there, engaged in our discussions and ready to share her thoughtful insights,” Mirguet said. “Several students reported that Elisa was for them a model of dedication and determination.”

While at ASU, Cardamone participated in a variety of academic and extracurricular activities. In addition to her studies, she also joined the Dragon Boat Club and served as an undergraduate teaching assistant for an elementary Italian class.

“Studying at ASU has undoubtedly been an essential aspect of my success in this competition,” Cardamone said. “Without the flexibility that the exchange program together with the School of International Letters and Cultures offers, I would have not been able to produce such an award-winning paper.”

Ultimately, Cardamone’s essay was ranked among the top eight entrants worldwide out of a pool of 80 submissions, and among the top three for the North America region. She is in her final year of a joint honors degree in archaeology and anthropology and plans to enter a master’s degree program in medical anthropology after graduation. 

Cardamone said that her experience at ASU, including being recognized for her research and writing, has prepared her for the next phase of her studies. 

“Sometimes as undergraduate students, we are undervalued or not considered as relevant as graduate students in terms of research,” she said. “Thus, the very existence of this type of award should make it clear that brilliant ideas can be developed even at the undergraduate level.”

Kimberly Koerth

Content Writer, School of International Letters and Cultures