Katie Gold, a junior studying communication, political science, and journalism, has been in many situations where she has cut off friends due to differences in political values.
“I have distanced myself from a lot of friends from high school specifically because of how hateful they are,” Gold said.
Gold also contends the physical distance between her and old friends, paired with a difference in political opinions, has strained many of her relationships.
“It’s very hard to keep those connections when they’re so distanced as it is and then when you disagree with someone so strongly on things that you would think to be just morals,” Gold said.
Camryn Mere, a sophomore studying adolescent young adult education, has not yet had to drop a friendship due to political differences, but political compatibility is an important factor in her relationships.
“I've never dropped a friend because of this, but I've definitely looked at them differently,” Mere said.
For example, if Mere had a friend who did not support the Black Lives Matter movement, she would reconsider their relationship, she said.
Equating political opinions to morals is one of many aspects of personal politics that strains relationships.
Lauren Elliott-Dorans, an OU political science professor, contends that politics are becoming very personal for many people.
“We're not arguing about whether or not pineapple belongs on pizza; these are real issues that have real impacts,” Elliot-Dorans said. “A vote for many people is seen as a signal of your values because these aren’t arbitrary decisions we’re making.”
Morals aren’t the only aspect pushing people to end friendships. Compatibility and comfortability are two major factors that also affect this trend.
“Research in psychology shows that we are more comfortable when our views are reinforced, rather than challenged,” Elliott-Dorans said.
Mere has experienced this lack of comfortability first-hand.
“I personally don't like talking about politics around people that I know disagree with me because it just makes me so uncomfortable,” Mere said.
Gold even went as far to end a possible romantic relationship last year due to differences between her beliefs and party alignment compared to that individual’s.
“I feel like often I see discrepancies within people's morals,” Gold said. “I’m like ‘OK, if you're aligning with this party, are we compatible with generally our life views and how we see the world and what we see as being right versus wrong?’”
Oftentimes, people tend to voice their opinions on controversial political topics in hopes to educate those with different views and strengthen their potential compatibility with others.
Setting boundaries while being willing to understand a counterargument is important when going into these conversations, Elliott-Dorans said.
“Both sides really care about their country; both sides are deeply concerned; polls are showing that both sides are very worried about what will happen if they lose this election,” Elliott-Dorans said. “I think it's important to kind of empathize with that fear and that concern.”
Those who live around Mere have what she calls a “small-town perspective” and are unable to change their mindsets due to the environment in which they have isolated themselves, rather than broadening their perspectives, Mere said.
“A lot of people tend to just vote how their parents vote or vote the way that they were brought up because that's just the easy way,” Mere said.
Similarly, Gold tends to open up conversations in hopes of opening up the eyes of those that disagree with her to the issues that she views as important.
“Oftentimes, I’m the most educated person in the room about these issues and so I feel like if I do not voice my opinions, these people may be interpreting information wrong or may not be understanding the wider picture of it,” Gold said.
As a young person growing up in an increasingly polarized world, Mere is one of many to be vocal about what she believes in.
“I feel like I should speak up … and raise awareness,” Mere said. “I have a voice. Why not use it?”