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Jonathan Kanter’s study of discussions between political conservatives and liberals is examined in this Seattle times article.

Liberals and conservatives made peace at UW — but Rush Limbaugh wasn’t buying it

By Nicole Brodeur UW associate professor Jonathan Kanter got liberal and conservative students to listen to each other at a recent workshop. Then conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh lambasted the idea. My sister and I can’t talk about politics. I love her something awful, but when we delve into some issues, it can be … something awful.

If it’s the same for you, and you worry that holiday gatherings will include indoor fireworks, you may take a note from Jonathan Kanter.

The University of Washington research associate professor of psychology published a study about a half-day workshop he held recently, aimed at decreasing polarization between students with opposing political beliefs.

Workshop questions were designed to gauge students’ feelings of political Manichaeism, which Kanter described as “ … when you demonize somebody who’s different than you … basically that, if you’re a conservative, and I’m a liberal, then you’re evil and inhuman, and vice versa.”

Through “vulnerable discussions of deeper reasons” for supporting hot-button issues such as gun ownership and immigration, the students — some conservative, some liberal — were able to understand each other’s perspectives and have more patience and compassion for each other.

One student, for example, explained his support for the Second Amendment by talking about hunting trips with his grandfather. It’s what he knew; it’s where he came from. In that context, everyone understood.

When the workshop ended, it seemed like the students had a generally better feeling toward the opposite party. No small feat, considering that partisan division in America is worse than it has ever been.

Then the conservative media got hold of Kanter’s study, and gave voice to the very biases and prejudices he was trying to undo.

“You’re not gonna persuade anyone with that,”conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh said of the hunting-with-my-grandfather story. “Liberals don’t have any sentiment! They don’t care about your childhood experiences.”

Read the entire article here .

UW News also covered this story.