The Science of America’s Dueling Political Narratives

Whatever else one might say about the Trump era in American politics, it’s provided a wealth of data for scientists studying public opinion. For those of us interested in “metanarratives”—the stories that groups tell themselves about who they are and where they’re headed—the 2016 and 2020 campaigns have been a gold mine.

Every vision of America has a metanarrative at its core. Are we a land of endless opportunity, a beacon for the world’s huddled masses? Are we the world’s lone superpower, throwing its weight around? Every institution, every social movement and every political campaign offers its own answers to questions like these, and for the people who believe these answers, these stories can be vital to their identity.

The science of metanarratives and how we respond to them is still in its infancy. Our research team, headed by psychologist Gerard Saucier, has uncovered the metanarratives typical of terrorists and

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