Why Are We So Divided?

No matter which metric you use, it seems like there is a yawning gap between people. We are more divided than ever. What is fueling this growing difference?

Short of an escalation into violence, it’s difficult to imagine a more divided population than exists in the United States and the world.

Income inequality means more families are struggling to make ends meet. At the same time, wealth is being concentrated in fewer and fewer hands.

There are more people leaving organized religion with each passing year. Those that remain feel persecuted.


Listen to a podcast where Michael and Lee discuss the related question: ‘What beliefs do you have that might be wrong?’ We also discuss a bonus question: ‘What makes a place feel like home?’


But by far, the most intense division is political. Individuals in different political parties can’t even seem to have a civil conversation. Each side believes the other one is destroying the country. As a result, we are self-selecting into opposing neighborhoods, cities, and states. Nuance, complexity, and compromise are forgotten or ignored.

How did we get here? What is the cause of this division? Is it a media that is chasing advertising money? Or political leaders looking to consolidate power and influence? Are the wealthy looking to collect even more money? Are the poor lazy and shiftless? Alternately, are social media outlets — a new technology — spreading misinformation in the interest of attracting viewers?

In your opinion, who is to blame for our current state of disunity? And more importantly, perhaps, how can we reverse that trend and see our commonalities rather than our differences? Why are we so divided?

Related questions: What do we have in common? How can we encourage meaningful conversation? Why do we hate? How do we know we are right?

Who Has Power?

In our society, it is the people who have power who manage to get things done. The type of power — financial, political, or even brute force — might change, but the use of it to accomplish goals does not.

We see examples of influence all around us. A business leader may use connections they have to make deals. Or someone who holds political office may use their position to enact legislation. Yet another example is a popular person exercising their social connections.

That power might be used for personal gain, or it might be used for societal gain. How it is used may be determined by the character of the person with the advantage. Conversely, there might be social or legislative checks on that power.

There is also a certain influence that comes from collaboration. One person may not be able to do much in isolation, but if that person can recruit a hundred others to help them, their reach can expand drastically.

Do you see power being used around you? How? Who has it? Is one kind more effective than another?

Related questions: Where does authority come from? Individual or society? What makes a good leader? How much power does an individual have?