Market researchers study the world through division.
We and our clients want to know what the masses think, sure. But we are also eager to split the masses into target markets. Some are based on broad buckets like gender, age, race and ethnicity, education, or income. Increasingly, technology and data have allowed us to slice ever smaller groups based on behaviors and attitudes.
This issue of What the Future is about one main division: party identification. The partisan schism feels like the lens through which you can look at everything these days.
When writing about democracy, the clichés come easy. Yet even the dichotomous words like “fragile” and “resilient” speak to a polarization of sorts. At the time of this writing, we have just witnessed an insurrection, which some found inconceivable and many others readily envisioned. In the midst of it all, our polling finds 86% of Democrats felt President Trump should be immediately removed, compared to 15% of Republicans. Having members of a conspiracy-theorizing mob physically sitting in the chair recently occupied by the Vice President of the United States in the Senate chamber wasn’t enough to break us out of our existing mindsets.
At Ipsos, we ensure that leaders in corporations and government hear the voice of the people in rooms where they craft products and policy. Polls show broad cross-partisan consensus on many huge issues like climate change. Continued inaction leads many to believe that leaders aren’t listening and that “the system is broken.”
Our editorial choice here is the same as the existential crisis facing the nation itself, and it is deeply rooted in human nature: Choose hope or choose fear. Choose darkness or choose light. Choose unity or choose division. In this issue, we’re choosing the optimistic approach with a stated recognition that it’s not a given and that even this discussion itself can seem loaded at times. In our What the Future: Truth issue (November 2020), we showed that politicians and foreign agitators are taking advantage of the ability to microtarget citizens/voters and are working to divide us further.
So, can we keep this grand experiment going while rectifying systemic issues of equity and inclusion? In these pages you’ll find a lot of reason to believe that, with some hard work, the answer is a cautious yes. In the meantime, we will, as Neil Diamond sang, huddle close and hang on to a dream.