News triggers conflict among romantic couples with different political views

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New York, Jan 13 (IANS) The cross-cutting political views present many challenges for romantic couples as new media trigger conflict for those with differing political views, new research has found.

In today’s hyper-partisan climate, how do couples with differing political perspectives decide which media to follow? How do these decisions affect their discussions on political issues and their relationship in general?

To explore these questions, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign communication professor Emily Van Duyn conducted in-depth interviews with 67 people whose partners’ political views differed from their own.

“Deciding which media to consume and whether to do so together or separately was difficult because it presented them with a choice about recognising their political differences and finding a way to navigate them,” Van Duyn said.

For these couples, seemingly mundane decisions about media consumption became “especially difficult,” Van Duyn said in a paper appeared in the journal Political Communication.

“They saw the news as inherently political, and their selection of a news outlet or the act of sharing an article or video meant they were intentionally pulling their partner into a recognition of their political differences,” she added.

News coverage activated differences between the partners that otherwise would not have emerged, sparking conflict as well as discussion.

Conflict emerged in various ways, including disagreement over news sources and content, but also when one person failed to respond as intensely as their partner when the latter shared news that they found disturbing or alarming, according to the study.

“Conflict resulting from news consumption often caused individuals to seek greater control of their news exposure, a reinforcing process that highlights the muddled order in how individuals simultaneously navigate news and relationships in contemporary democracy,” Van Duyn noted.

Some couples sought a common media outlet they could agree on to co-view together, while others intentionally chose to consume news independently, whether in separate rooms or by scrolling their social media feeds on separate devices while in each other’s company.

Other individuals sought ways of consuming news with their partner that superseded their differences and utilized other news media privately, according to the study.

“The point in their relationship when couples’ political differences emerged affected how partners negotiated news with one another,” Van Duyn said.

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