Several months ago many of you were kind enough to complete a survey on political beliefs and narrative form I conducted as part of doctoral program at Texas Tech (go Battleground Texas!). Sorry it has taken me so long to give you the results, but attached please find the paper I wrote on the topic. It's in that special indecipherable language academics use to convince each other we know what we're talking about, and like all journal-style articles it spends a lot of time discussing theory before getting to the key topic in question.
In any case, the Results section is pretty accessible and the survey results are in graphic form starting on page 6 if you want to see them.
The basic question was whether Kos readers tended to see politics through a tragic lens (involving good heroes and evil villains) or a comic lens (involving wise heroes and foolish or mistaken villains). I expected more of the second. What the results seemed to indicate, though, was that the political opposition on the right was more often seen as tragic (evil or wicked, and deliberately so), while the political left was more often seen as comic (wise, or at least wiser, but not necessarily "good").
The full paper can be found in .pdf format via a link on my blog.
Thanks again to all everyone who helped with the survey, and keep up the activism!
I've included the last couple paragraphs of the Conclusions section below the jump.
the study can offer at least one tentative conclusion: It appears that the highly political and strongly left-wing individuals in this community tend toward a tragic view of the counteragent, but simultaneously prefer a comic view of the agent and the redemptive purpose and means. Thus, to the extent to which this can be generalized, it might be suggested this group views the opposition as villainous, but does not view the political “self”—either as manifest in specific figures like Obama, or even as in abstract groups like “liberals” or “progressives”—as comparably heroic. Such a mismatch of narrative lenses would be a provocative finding in itself, and might also offer insight into the behavior of this group, and into the problems of communicating between groups. For example, such a finding would help explain the much debated effectiveness of negative advertising as compared to positive advertising. If the audience is more willing to see the counteragent as a villain, negative ads that feature vicious intent rather than foolish mistakes (seemingly most negative ads) would essentially play to the innate tendencies of the audience. Likewise, positive ads, which tend to cast a heroic light on candidates, might run against the formal predilections of the audience, and thus be less effective.
However, while an understanding of the narrative preferences of a community may well prove useful for campaign advertising designed to “motivate the base,” and indeed in a democratic society one cannot entirely dismiss the value of such ads no matter how jaded we have become, it is my hope that such an understanding also leads to more effective communication across the partisan divide. This is not merely a call for less political dysfunction in Washington, but rather a call for more effective communication about the many vital issues, such as climate change, that have unfortunately become coupled with partisan identity to such an extent that no productive political debate on the topic seems possible anywhere in the country. It is vital to remember, though, that the obstacles to this debate do not lie in Washington any more than political identity itself comes from Washington. Thus any transformation of our political discourse must be a transformation of all levels of discourse, and one that acknowledges the nature and inherent sense of individual formal perspectives.