Educating the Public on Evidence-based methods for improving inter-group civility.

What You Can Do

[the text below is taken from the older version of this website. It will be updated soon]

  • Learn about moral psychology and the processes that lead to self-righteous incivility.
  • Model political civility in your own speech and behavior. Be politically active, criticize policies and parties, but be careful about criticizing people and ascribing base motives to explain their political actions.
  • Form personal relationships across the divide. When a clerical error led to contact between Sen.Ted Kennedy and the Rev. Jerry Falwell in 1983, their respectful and very public joint appearances had an enormous humanizing (and therefore civilizing) effect on many who saw or read about the events. You can read about the story here, including an uplifting prayer for Sen. Kennedy's health from the conservative columnist Cal Thomas. You can hear and read Kennedy's original speech atLiberty University here. If you have a chance to arrange a political discussion or debate with someone that you know and like personally, the odds are that your public display of disagrement combined with respect and affection will have a beneficial effect on the audience. (See this example, from The Village Square.)
  • Avoid exposing yourself to news and entertainment programs that promote uncivil political "debate." Diana Mutz, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, has found that exposure to uncivil debate (as opposed to civil debate) decreases trust in government and in the political process. It alienates voters as it entertains them, and is therefore likley to undercut democratic participation.

What you can do politically

  • Support more civil, inspiring, divide-bridging candidates at all levels of government.
  • If your state ever considers switching to a non-partisan redistricting process (like Iowa), or to non-partisan primary elections (like Washington State), support it. These two reforms seem to reduce the number of extremists who get elected, and therefore these reforms increase the civility of politics and the effectiveness of state government.
  • Support or initiate efforts to switch to "Instant Runoff Voting", as championed by Voters rank their top candidates, and as the least successful candidates are eliminated, their supporters' votes get transferred to their other choices. Six cities and two states already use the procedure. Even the Oscars adopted it. A recent op-ed in USA Today summarized the advantages succinctly: Costly runoffs, with anemic turnout, are avoided. Fringe candidates are less likely to be elected when mainstream candidates split the vote. Campaigns can be more civil because candidates looking for second-choice as well as first-choice votes don't want to alienate a rival's supporters. (For more on IRV, see this summary by Howard Ditkoff).

What you can do financially

This website does not take donations. But we urge you to support organizations and individuals that are working to reduce incivility and to increase understanding across the political divide. These include:

  • Common cause, a non-partisan advocacy group that lobbies for electoral reforms
  • The Village Square, a bipartisan group of Floridians who foster dialogue and civility in state politics, in part by hosting events involving shared meals. They are hoping to take their model to other cities.
  • The Transpartisan Alliance,
  • [others? Please send suggestions to haidt at]
Our goal is to educate the public about social science research on improving inter-group relations across moral divides.