When people learn about Braver Angels, they might think it sounds great, but does it actually work? As the leader of the Braver Angels Evaluation Team, I’m excited to say that the numbers are in, and we can report that our workshops are proven to help depolarize Americans.
For the past few years, participants in our workshops have been asked to fill out pre- and post-evaluations, where they’re asked a range of questions, from how the event was run to how participants feel about those on the other side. Based on the data compiled from 2020-2022:
- After participating in Braver Angels events or workshops, nearly 70% report having a positive view of the other political side.
- This view contrasts sharply with a 2022 Pew Research Center report, which said between half and two-thirds of Democrats and Republicans view the “other side” negatively—as close-minded, dishonest, immoral, and unintelligent.
- After engaging with Braver Angels programming, those who identify as ideologically extreme (strongly liberal or strongly conservative) feel just as positive about the other side as those who identify as moderate.
- 80% of participants across five distinct workshops said they were able to find common ground with people on the other side of the political divide. The 1:1 Conversations were the highest rated, with 97% saying they were able to identify common ground with their partner.
- Across demographics (i.e., age, race, ideology, gender, etc.), 75% of participantssaid they were likely to share something they learned with friends and family members, 84% of participants feel engaged during Braver Angels events, and 92% of participants said the Braver Angels workshop or event was well-run.
- And finally, while our goal is not to change people’s views of the issues, after going through Braver Angels programming, across demographics, nearly 40% of participants re-evaluated a personal political view as a result of Braver Angels programming.
To dig more into the first data point, we used a basic measure of polarization, the “feeling thermometer,” where people select a number to describe how they feel about people with similar political views (ingroup) and people with different political views (outgroup). A “0” indicates the most unfavorable view of a group and “100” is the most favorable.
Before people participated in a Red/Blue workshop, they ranked their ingroup as 74 and their outgroup as 36. After they participated in the Red/Blue workshop, the respondents liked their own group slightly more (75) and the outgroup substantially more (54). This means, in the short term, participants of Braver Angels Red/Blue Workshops shifted their views of the other side from negative to slightly positive.
Additionally, we calculated the Relative Dislike and found it dropped significantly, from 38 to 21. This indicates that participants in this Red/Blue workshop decreased their polarization as measured on the feeling thermometer by 17 points. Even with our small sample, these results are statistically significant at the p>0.0017 level. Other polarization measures indicated similar results.
People often ask us if various demographic groups have different reactions to the workshops. Based on the data we have so far, we found no differences in the feedback that can be attributed to a person’s ideology, race, or gender. As stated above, we even looked at the difference between people who said they were on an ideological extreme (right or left) versus those who were more moderate. Again, we found both groups were similar in how they responded to questions such as “How comfortable (or less estranged or angry) do you feel with those on the other side of the political divide?” or “How fully did you participate in today’s events?”
The key takeaway from these findings is that Braver Angels programs appear to work for people across the ideological spectrum and in different demographic groups. The only slight difference we found was that men may tend to prefer attending debates over other events.
We are excited to continue our analysis of Braver Angels workshops and events, both to improve what we are doing and to share with others effective ways we can bridge the partisan divide in our country. And if you’re looking to learn more about our impact, check this out!