Media Projects Aim to Break Bread and Political Barriers

One-hundred-plus days of President Donald Trump later, and the 2016 election season still makes Americans uneasy.

According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, the largest scientific and professional psychology organization in the United States, Americans are feeling post-election stress in the workplace.

The study is a follow-up to an earlier survey conducted during the 2016 election season. Researchers found that 26 percent of employees were more stressed as a result of political discussions at work, an increase of a 9 percent since September 2016.

More notably, one in six people reported strained relationships as a result of political discussions at work post-election.

From the study: 2017 Work and Well-Being Survey: Special Focus on Politics

Several news outlets, lifestyle magazines and TED Talks have tried to guide their listeners, readers and viewers on how to navigate conversations around politics.

CNN’s Van Jones is using his show, “The Messy Truth,” as a platform for these conversations.

“I’m trying to get to a place where we can have a different kind of conversation where the goal isn’t to just bludgeon the other side,” Jones told AdWeek.

Still, some people are returning to more traditional ways of bridging gaps: chatting with neighbors in homes, on the sidewalk, and over food.

NPR structured the idea of conversation with a new project called Voting Block, created by Nancy Soloman, managing editor of New Jersey Public Radio. The project is a collaboration between WNYC, WHYY, WBGO, NJ Spotlight, The Record of the USA Today Network and New American Media. Some of the projects partners include the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal and the Center for Cooperative Media.

The outlets will host events and discussion groups and follow locals as the New Jersey 2017 gubernatorial election cycle progresses. WNYC decided to cover an area called Hillside Terrace that spans South Orange and West Orange.

South Orange is a suburb where 40 percent of the population consists of people of color and the median household income in 2010 was $123,373. In West Orange, around 50 percent of the population are people of color and the median household income is $88,000, according to the 2010 census. One end of the block is represented by Democrat Donald Payne, and the other by Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen.

The diversity of the block makes it a breeding ground for conversation. Citizens like Arun Vadlamani told WNYC that he identifies with the conservative concepts like limited government but that the “Right has gone so far right that he became a left.”

Projects like Voting Block attempt to identify places where people feel misaligned with the two political parties and suggests that people should put less weight on a party label, a tricky sell in the two-party system that is America.

For those intrigued by the idea of having dinner that includes politics, a typically taboo conversation topic, Living Room Conversations is a nonprofit organization that helps “revitalize” civil discourse through conversation.

Anyone can host a Living Room Conversation: Just choose a topic, take to social media to find guests and then pick a place. Living Room Conversation partner organization, Hi From The Other Side, will help find dinner guests from across the aisle for those whose social media platforms are simply echo chambers of their own beliefs.

“When you’re a host and guest,” CEO Joan Blades told the San Francisco Examiner, “people abide by social norms.”

The results of these projects will hopefully lead to less political animosity in the workplace and at home, and hopefully a regression to pre-election feelings of stress and hostility.

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