A Nation Divided and Polarized: Can We Discuss Solutions?

January 21, 2021
7:30 p.m.–9:00 p.m. EST

A divided and polarized nation can be toxic to democracy. What has fostered this divide in the United States, and can a bridge to civility and common ground be achieved? Laurel Harbridge-Yong, Will Friedman, Míriam Juan-Torres, and Robert Y. Shapiro discussed this issue critical to the nation’s future. This event was organized by the Network for Responsible Public Policy.




LAUREL HARBRIDGE-YONG is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and a Faculty Fellow at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University. She received her Ph.D. in 2009 from Stanford University. Her research explores a range of questions surrounding partisan conflict and the difficulty of reaching bipartisan agreements and legislative compromises in American politics. Her research spans projects on the U.S. Congress, state legislatures, and the mass public. She is the author of two books, Is Bipartisanship Dead? Policy Agreement and Agenda-Setting in the House of Representatives (Cambridge University Press, 2015) and Rejecting Compromise: Legislators’ Fear of Primary Voters (with Sarah Anderson and Daniel Butler, Cambridge University Press, 2020), and numerous journal articles.

WILL FRIEDMAN is a Senior Fellow at Public Agenda. He previously served as president of the organization from 2011 to 2020. Will joined Public Agenda in 1994, became Associate Director of Research in 1996, was the founding director of its public engagement department in 1997, established Public Agenda’s Center for Advances in Public Engagement (now the Yankelovich Center) in 2007. Will is the co-author, with the late Public Agenda co-founder Daniel Yankelovich, of Toward Wiser Public Judgment (2011, Vanderbilt University Press). Among his other publications are: Reframing Framing; Deliberative Democracy and the Problem of Scope; and Deliberative Democracy and the Problem of Power. Will has been the driving force behind Public Agenda’s Hidden Common Ground Initiative, a research, journalism, public engagement, and storytelling enterprise that seeks to disrupt the narrative of a hopelessly divided America.

MIRIAM JUAN-TORRES is More in Common’s Global Senior Researcher. She conducts research on public opinion, polarization, and the drivers of support for authoritarian populism by combining quantitative and qualitative methods with academic work from various social science disciplines. A multidisciplinary researcher, Míriam has also worked as an Associate Professor of Public International Law at the Autonomous University of Barcelona and has conducted field studies around the world. In West Africa, Míriam worked for UNHCR in Ghana with refugees in protracted situations and studied processes and mechanisms implemented to prevent electoral-related violence. In Colombia, Míriam worked for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on victims’ rights and legal cases opened against human rights activists and communal leaders. Míriam is a licensed lawyer in Spain, where she worked in public law for the firm Baker & McKenzie. She holds a master’s degree in Global Affairs from Yale University and a Law degree from the Autonomous University of Barcelona.


ROBERT Y. SHAPIRO is the President of the Academy of Political Science and Wallace S. Sayre Professor of Government and Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.


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