Northwestern Events Calendar


Jeremy Levy, “How could anyone believe that?”: Interacting with unfamiliar beliefs across the U.S. political divide

When: Thursday, November 9, 2023
12:15 PM - 2:00 PM CT

Where: Scott Hall, Ripton 201, 601 University Place, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Ariel Sowers   (847) 491-7454

Group: Department of Political Science

Category: Academic, Lectures & Meetings, Training, Global & Civic Engagement


Please join the American Politics Workshop and the Commune as they host Jeremy Levy, Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science, “How could anyone believe that?”: Interacting with unfamiliar beliefs across the U.S. political divide.

ABSTRACT: To what extent does the current animosity in the U.S. public have an ideological component? And if this ideological component exists, are there ways to generate cross-ideological understanding, so that liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans see more legitimate rationales for each other’s beliefs? I investigate these questions with evidence from several surveys. For both questions, my answer depends on a framework of ideology that I refer to as the danger/humanism framework, in which the primary difference between the two ideological groups is the extent to which they perceive the world as inherently dangerous. Applying this framework, I find evidence that the existing literature has underestimated the ideological component of animosity. Furthermore, the framework can serve as a Rosseta Stone, generating understanding by helping individuals see the values and logic underlying the other side’s rhetoric. I argue that this approach for generating understanding can help prevent democratic erosion, above and beyond a common approach in the literature that instead emphasizes commonalities between the two sides.

Jeremy Levy is a PhD candidate in Political Science at Northwestern University, studying political behavior and political psychology in the U.S. Levy's research concerns the extent to which regular individuals hold substantive, organized belief systems (or ideologies), as well as the dynamics that unfold when individuals encounter unfamiliar belief systems. In his dissertation, Levy investigates ways to create greater understanding between liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans in the United States. His ongoing research also investigates cross-cutting interactions in a variety of topical areas such as motivated reasoning, misinformation, and the unfolding nature of political conversations.

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