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Abortion rights, gun control debates exacerbate American polarization: How YOU can help bridge the divide

Abortion rights and gun control are hot-button issues in the U.S. right now, so how can people who disagree learn to see eye to eye?

Karla Hult

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Published: 6:48 AM CDT June 22, 2022
Updated: 8:23 AM CDT June 22, 2022

Brace yourselves: scholars say the simultaneous debates surrounding abortion rights and gun control may have propelled Americans into the most polarizing chapter yet in modern history.

And that’s despite particularly divisive 2016 and 2020 election cycles (culminating in the Jan. 6 Capitol riots), when most people speculated the divisions had reached their peak.

“Historians say that we are at levels of polarization now in this country that we have not seen since the 1850s, prior to the Civil War,” says Dr. Bill Doherty, a professor in the department of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota and co-founder of Braver Angels, an organization that offers training to help bridge the country’s political and cultural divide.

In an interview with KARE 11’s Karla Hult, Doherty noted several factors that scholars feel have deepened political and social divisions, from social media, to “media silos,” to the growing inequality within globalization, to gerrymandering that contributes to more “extreme” political candidates. And Doherty elaborated on why he feels the country’s current conversations – heightened in sensitivity by the U.S. Supreme Court’s imminent decision on Roe v. Wade and the Uvalde school shooting – have only exacerbated the crisis.

“What's happened is we have some powerfully hot-button issues that are increasingly dividing us as we get people who are more desperate for change and others who are desperate to resist that change,” he says.