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Supporting civil discourse efforts

Civil discourse is highly valuable, both among adults and in a classroom setting. The value of civil discourse, however, can be diminished if those engaging in dialogue have misperceptions about what average Americans across the political spectrum think about various political topics. Starting with an assumption that those in the other party are more extreme and stereotypical than they really are can lead to various civil discourse problems, including unnecessary anxiety about engaging in civil discourse, an overemphasis on binary and fringe policy options, and misunderstandings of which policies may have majority or bipartisan support. One can use an “appetizer” analogy that correcting relevant aspects of the Perception Gap should often come before the “main course” of civil discourse. However, Perception Gap content is also highly valuable when used separately from civil discourse efforts, especially for those who do not have the time, interest, or energy to engage in extended civil discourse.

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