Researchers try to steer political discussion toward a positive direction

Some people think the increasingly negative political discussion is partially to blame for Wednesday's shooting.

Some believe the increasingly negative political discourse is partially to blame for Wednesday's shooting that wounded six people, including a U.S. Congressman.

But a group of researchers is trying to change the conversation and they're asking for your help to do it.

Regardless of where you stand on the issues, politics can be one of the most divisive conversations to have.

“You have to guard yourself and your conversations,” said Tammy Mullins of St. Louis.

You hear who they voted for and you're awe struck by it. And you want to say something, but you don't want to have that argument,” added Jason Graham of Peoria, Il.

Enter the Central Tendency PAC, a project by a group of researchers aimed at studying the way people talk to one another, especially on line, about politics.

“We're looking at all types of online communication. But we're particularly interested in when they have successful discussions with people who have different points of view,” said researcher Mark Poepsel, Ph.D. assistant professor of mass communications at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

“Now is the appropriate time because it's as bad as it's ever been and it's not getting better on its own,” said Dan Schmidt, M.A., Senior Research Project Manager at Pennsylvania State University.

Schmidt came up with the idea after a political post on Facebook cost him a friendship with an army buddy.

“This is a person who had gone to war with me. We had been in combat together and he unfriended me due to a very silly, benign Facebook political comment.”

The team hopes the research will teach citizens, as well as politicians, how to get back to more civil conversations that lead America forward.

“Trolls are going to troll and the question isn't how do we stop people from trying that. The question is how do we teach people to divert attention back,” said Poepsel.

The study is open to anyone 18 or older and the team hopes to get 5,000 to 10,000 participants.

Click here if you'd like to participate.

© 2017 KSDK-TV


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