What is the Polarization Index?

Throughout our history, Americans have long taken sides on a wide range of issues, from slavery to same-sex marriage. But polarization is no longer just the result of disagreements. It’s the cause of them, with even the most benign topics becoming personally and politically charged in our polarized society.

Despite the general recognition that polarization has increased in our society, no one seems to know how to measure or manage it. That’s why we’ve spent the last year creating a new tool to help leaders quantify the level of discord in our country, understand the issues that are driving it, and navigate their engagement within it.

Poli Book cover OCTOBER 2021 – MARCH 2022

The Polarization Index Delivers

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Polarization Score

The PI generates a quarterly score reflecting the current level of polarization in our society and the factors that are contributing to public discord.

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Issues Analysis

The PI analyzes the factors driving the most controversial issues and tracks how those issues are evolving over time.

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Emerging Trends

The PI will add timely new topics to the existing portfolio of issues as they become relevant.

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Implications

The PI provides information and counsel to individuals and organizations who plan to address or engage with social issues.

Methodology

The Polarization Index measures the engagement with polarized content on Twitter, with polarization calculated by combining volume of shares with the bias and reliability ratings of the media sources publishing the shared content. The calculation is based on the premise that a share from a low-reliable source on either end of the political bias spectrum is more polarizing than a share from highly-reliable, more centered sources.

The score calculated for each issue represents the delta between the partisan echo chambers of the left and right side of the political bias spectrum - and shows how they are changing over time.

Engagement with a media source is counted when a user shares the URL of an article in a tweet. For engagement to register to a PI issue, the article in the tweet must reference one or more of the keywords related to the topic itself, or the user must reference one or more of the keywords related to the topic in their tweet along with the URL of an article from the list of sources tracked.

About our Partners

USC new logo

Based at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, the USC Center for Public Relations (CPR) connects corporations, agencies, academics and students to define the future of our industry and to develop those who will shape it.

Zignal

Used by the world’s largest companies and public sector organizations, Zignal’s natural language processing and machine learning algorithms identify risks and opportunities as they emerge, and provide insight into how to shape the narratives that matter.

Golin new logo

Golin is a global public relations agency that helps companies create change that matters. Golin’s global network provides our clients with comprehensive solutions for multi-market, regional and global communications programs.