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Reducing political polarization in the United States with a mobile chat platform


Do anonymous online conversations between people with different political views exacerbate or mitigate partisan polarization? We created a mobile chat platform to study the impact of such discussions. Our study recruited Republicans and Democrats in the United States to complete a survey about their political views. We later randomized them into treatment conditions where they were offered financial incentives to use our platform to discuss a contentious policy issue with an opposing partisan. We found that people who engage in anonymous cross-party conversations about political topics exhibit substantial decreases in polarization compared with a placebo group that wrote an essay using the same conversation prompts. Moreover, these depolarizing effects were correlated with the civility of dialogue between study participants. Our findings demonstrate the potential for well-designed social media platforms to mitigate political polarization and underscore the need for a flexible platform for scientific research on social media.

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Fig. 1: Onboarding images from the social media platform created for this study.
Fig. 2: Effect of cross-party interaction on an anonymous chat platform on political polarization.
Fig. 3: Effect of cross-party interaction on an anonymous chat platform on political polarization according to different identity cues.
Fig. 4: Effect of cross-party interaction on an anonymous chat platform on political polarization, by party.
Fig. 5: Civility by treatment outcome (over time).

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Data availability

Anonymized replication data are publicly available from the authors at this link:

Code availability

Replication code for the main results in the manuscript is publicly available at this link:


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We thank C. Goode for assistance with software development. This research was funded by the Provost’s Office at Duke University (C.A.B., D.S.H. and A.V.), a Facebook Foundational Research Award (C.A.B. and A.V.), Templeton Foundation Award No. 62656 (C.A.B., D.S.H. and A.V.) and NSF CAREER Award No. DMS-2046880 (A.V.). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.

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Authors and Affiliations



A.V., D.S.H., C.A.B., A.C., G.T., F.M. and B.G. designed the research. A.C. and C.A.B. created the mobile communication platform. B.G., D.S.H. and C.A.B. designed the survey. G.T., A.V. and C.A.B. analysed the data. D.S.H., C.A.B., A.V., A.C., B.G. and G.T. wrote the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Alexander Volfovsky.

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Competing interests

C.A.B. served as an academic consultant for Twitter’s Incentives Team in early 2022, which explored new ways to increase positive behaviour on its platform. In this capacity, he has been paid US$2,675. The remaining authors declare no competing interests.

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Combs, A., Tierney, G., Guay, B. et al. Reducing political polarization in the United States with a mobile chat platform. Nat Hum Behav 7, 1454–1461 (2023).

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