Here is the full transcript of Sarah Longwell’s talk titled “What Makes Someone Vote Against Their Political Party?” at TED conference.
Political strategist Sarah Longwell’s talk, titled “What Makes Someone Vote Against Their Political Party?”, explores the deep-rooted tribal instincts that influence political loyalty and how these can be overcome. She shares insights from her experiences with focus groups, highlighting how voters’ attachment to their political tribes often overshadows their concerns for democracy.
Longwell discusses her efforts to challenge this mindset through the “Republican Voters Against Trump” initiative, which utilized personal testimonials to persuade Republicans to vote against Donald Trump in the 2020 election. Despite the reluctance of many to break from their party, the campaign found success by connecting on a personal level, leveraging shared identities and values. She notes that discussions about democracy rarely influenced voters directly, but the actions taken effectively supported democratic principles by challenging party allegiance.
The talk underscores the complexity of voter behavior, suggesting that while democracy might be taken for granted, it remains a fundamental aspect of American identity. Longwell concludes by emphasizing the need for a better narrative about democracy to build a more inclusive and understanding political environment.
Listening to the audio version here:
Hi, guys! I’m Sarah Longwell, and my favorite TV show is “Survivor.” Now, you know this show, it’s the one where they take a bunch of people, put them on a desert island, they make them make fire and, like, houses, or, like, a shelter. And they make them a tribe. And then, every week, they vote somebody out of the tribe. This show’s been on for, like, 45 seasons. There are versions of it in 50 different countries. And I think the reason that this show is so popular and enduring is because we can all really relate to that anxiety of being rejected by our tribe.
Now, social scientists, anthropologists, people who study people, they will tell us that there is nothing more traumatic for a human than getting kicked out of their tribe. We all want to fit in, we all crave community and belonging. We’ve had tribal instincts for as long as we’ve been around. Right? Humans have. It’s hardwired in there, as part of our survival instincts, so we don’t get eaten by lions or bears. And right now, our politics is defined by partisan tribalism.