Unfortunately, the Perception Gap study suggests that neither the media nor the universities are likely to remedy Americans’ inability to hear each other: It found that the best educated and most politically interested Americans are more likely to vilify their political adversaries than their less educated, less tuned-in peers.
Americans who rarely or never follow the news are surprisingly good at estimating the views of people with whom they disagree. On average, they misjudge the preferences of political adversaries by less than ten percent. Those who follow the news most of the time, by contrast, are terrible at understanding their adversaries. On average, they believe that the share of their political adversaries who endorse extreme views is about 30 percent higher than it is in reality.
Perhaps because institutions of higher learning tend to be dominated by liberals, Republicans who have gone to college are not more likely to caricature their ideological adversaries than those who dropped out of high school. But among Democrats, education seems to make the problem much worse. Democrats who have a high school degree suffer from a greater perception gap than those who don’t. Democrats who went to college harbor greater misunderstandings than those who didn’t. And those with a postgrad degree have a way more skewed view of Republicans than anybody else.