Differences in political beliefs benefit friendships, community

Perhaps you’ve heard of the phrase “The Berkeley Bubble.” This phrase refers to the comfortable and sheltered atmosphere Berkeley provides regarding culture, social acceptance, and liberal politics. In the last presidential election, just under 80 percent of Alameda County voted Democratic. As a result, many residents in Berkeley and other places that show similar political trends may be at risk of being confined to the dominating political beliefs surrounding them. This can create a lack of perspective that is crucial when navigating politics, as well as the world in general. That is why it is imperative that individuals in Berkeley go out of their way to seek healthy relationships and friendships with people who have varying political opinions. 

While some individuals choose to seek friendships with people of similar political views to themselves, arguing that differing political views could get in the way of friendships, this is simply not true. According to a PEW Research Study, more than a third of registered voters say some of their close friends support the other party’s candidate. This proves that close friendships can be successfully maintained by people with differing political views. 

Polarization of political parties is prevalent now more than ever, and it is interfering with our government’s ability to do its job. Last year the House of Representatives passed a record-breakingly low amount of legislation that appears to have been largely due to conflicts regarding political ideology. This shows that letting differences in political ideology interfere with relationships disrupts a nation, and thus doing the opposite, coming together, would help not only friendships but our nation too. 

There is also rampant dehumanization of people in different political parties. A 2020 study on political dehumanization by Alex Landry asked Democrats and Republicans “how evolved” they thought people of the opposing political party were. On average, both sides rated each other 20 to 30 points below fully human. 

Calder Underwood, a junior at Berkeley High School, echoed this sentiment. “Especially in the culture we live in now, that’s highly politicized, that’s highly divided politically, there’s an aspect of political discussion that becomes very dehumanizing to the other side,” said Underwood.

Underwood has friends of diverse political backgrounds and spoke about how it benefits not only his relationships but also him as an individual. 

“I think when you have a friend, someone who you have a shared history with that has different beliefs, it can really open your mind to the fact that people who don’t share the same beliefs as you, they’re still people, and their politics doesn’t necessarily define them,” Underwood said. This emphasizes the idea that in addition to widening someone’s political perspective, friendships between individuals with contrasting political views can also lead to increased humanization. 

Differences in political opinions in a relationship can present challenges, however, those challenges will only make the relationship and the people in it stronger. Through such relationships, individuals will gain a greater perspective and understanding of differing political views that they’d otherwise be lacking. It is not only beneficial to have friends of diverse political ideologies but also is a necessity in order to expand as individuals and as a community.