Critical Conversation 2020:
Challenges to Evidence-based Policy Development in an Age of Public Polarization and Disengagement
On February 20, 2020, we looked at the phenomenon of social-media amplified polarization in public discourse and growing distrust and disengagement by an increasingly frustrated and exhausted general public, and the challenges this poses for effective public policy administration. As the general public increasingly tunes out of important policy debates, they cede the floor to louder and more zealous voices with a zero-sum view of issues that makes them unwilling to see or accept the benefit of compromise. When this is accompanied by a growing distrust of experts and the evidence they bring to the table, the result is that effective information dissemination is undermined by more emotion-based, “evidence-light” argumentation. The result is often a polarization of vocal viewpoints around narrow extremes, making collaborative evidence-based policy development and administration less likely.