Americas Divided: A new study reveals that polarization is on the rise in the Americas

  • The new study by LLYC and Más Democracia analyzed polarizing conversations on social media in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, among others.
  • The study was created in collaboration with experts in the fields of psychology and neuroscience to show the effects of consuming polarizing content on a daily basis.
  • Abortion, climate change and immigration are among the main areas of discussion.

MIAMI–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#BigData“THD: The Hidden Drug,” the new report by LLYC and Más Democracia, was transformed into a campaign showing how being addicted to polarization on social media can reach the level of a drug in some cases: a drug hidden behind the apparent normalcy of using these digital platforms. Using techniques of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, the report was created in collaboration with experts in neuroscience and psychology to analyze conversations on social media in countries like the United States, Mexico and Brazil, among others.

JF Muñoz, LLYC U.S. CEO stated, “This addiction to social media, and especially polarizing content, generates symptoms similar to those of a type C drug in both people and society. This trend is especially significant in today’s world in which mass use of social media continues to grow.”

The report also warns of a progressive increase of this “addiction to conversation,” which in the United States has reached levels of continuous year-over-year growth of 15%; that is, the level of involvement or engagement of the users from one side of the political spectrum to the other in the areas of conversation.

The study’s key findings are presented below.


1. Topics

  • The topics that most polarize conversation in the United States are: abortion, climate change, immigration, racism and human rights. In Latin American countries, they are: abortion, freedom of expression and human rights.
  • In the United States, freedom of expression is the topic that most polarizes society, while human rights is the topic that mobilizes the largest volume of conversation. In Mexico, conversation is growing around topics like freedom of expression, human rights, racism, abortion and feminism.
  • Mexico is less polarized than the United States and Brazil; there is a greater consensus regarding feminism and climate change, as well as much less polarity and a more moderate level of involvement in conversations, compared to other Ibero-American countries.

2. Political stances

  • In the United States, Colombia and Brazil, the progressive sector dominates the field of conversation. On the contrary, in Mexico, Argentina, the Dominican Republic and Panama, the conservative party is dominant.

3. Polarization and social movements

  • Racism presents the greatest consensus in the United States, but the polarization index has dropped by up to 74% for several months due to the consensus on social networks in this regard.
  • In Latin American countries, the conversation on feminism is growing by 18% each year. While in the United States, the abortion conversation is on the rise, with a growth of 76%.

For Mariano Sigman, neuroscientist and author of The Power of Words, “It is difficult to measure the exact risk of an addiction; in some cases, it’s well-known, but in others, like polarization, it’s not. The lack of understanding generates high levels of hostility that lead social media users to see others as an opponent. This can be the true risk of a drug like polarization.”

The report analyzed 600 million messages on social media collected between September 1, 2017 and August 31, 2022. To download the complete report, video and images of the campaign, click here.

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Sandra Ramos

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