In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review August 20, 2007 / 6 Elul 5767

Moving beyond what your best friends tell you

By Clarence Page

Printer Friendly Version
Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | There they go again. I'm listening to a political call-in program on the radio and a caller says he doesn't believe the major opinion polls. That's his right, but I wait to hear some evidence.

Instead I hear this: "And everyone I've talked to feels like I do."

Wow. Somebody break the news to Gallup, Harris, Roper, Zogby and all those other pollsters. They're all washed up. Politicians and major corporations don't need to keep spending gazillions of dollars on polls and focus groups. All they have to do is talk to this guy's pals.

One of my pet peeves is people who don't stop to realize that the whole world might not be thinking about the world or experiencing it the same way that they and their friends do. In politics, economics and other current affairs, people often are influenced less by facts than by their friends.

Increasingly sociologists are finding that, whether we intend to or not, birds of a political feather flock together.

Almost 20 years ago, sociologist David Knoke at the University of Minnesota found that you can predict someone's politics with great certainty if his or her closest two or three friends all lean in one political direction.

"The more homogeneous that someone's personal networks are," Knoke told me in a recent interview, "the more likely they share the partisanship of other people."

As another presidential election heats up, it's wise to understand the subtle but important role that the attraction of like-minded individuals plays in our political attitudes.

To the political strategists who make their living in such matters, we're not really "red state" or "blue state" America, according to Douglas B. Sosnik, Matthew J. Dowd and Ron Fournier, the authors of "Applebee's America: How Successful Political, Business, and Religious Leaders Connect with the New American Community." Instead, they argue, we're a bunch of "Red Tribes, Blue Tribes and Tipping Tribes," shaped by our lifestyle choices and persuadable by anyone who makes a "Gut Values Connection" with us.

But, do our views shape our friendships? Or do our friends shape our views? "It's not an either-or question," Duke University sociologist Lynn Smith-Lovin said in a telephone interview. "But if I had to choose, I would say most of what we learn is shaped by our associations and that our associations are shaped more by the structures in which we live — our neighborhoods, workplaces, churches, the clubs we join and so forth."

Normally, she said, "you don't set out saying you are going to hang out with these people because they are all supporters of one candidate or another. You go because a certain place is full of people who are like you in a lot of other ways. Political beliefs become just another part of the soup of information that you share with one another."

Critical ingredients in that soup, says sociologist Mario Luis Small of the University of Chicago, are our demographics and our shared experiences. People with similar incomes, backgrounds, work categories and family situations gravitate to the same places, activities and ultimately friendships.

For example, his research for a forthcoming book turned up the unexpected revelation that care of children was only one of many benefits of child-care centers. Thanks to the friendships formed, the mothers suffer less depression, social isolation and material hardship than comparable mothers who do not use the centers. "We participate in organizations that provide what we are looking for and end up with people who share our needs," Small said. "The implication for our political attitudes is that these activities end up reinforcing the attitudes I already have."

These days, Smith-Lovin noted, we are more likely than ever to have our group-shared partisanship hardened by a growing array of Internet sites and other media dedicated to very specific tastes and viewpoints. Increasingly, if you so desire, you and your friends can cruise through an entire day of media without every sharing the viewpoints or experiences of someone unlike yourselves.

Many find that narrow sampling of the world to be comforting, no doubt. Complexity makes some people nervous. But the world is complex, and sometimes discomfort is good. We learn things not only by reinforcing our cherished beliefs but also in seeing how well those beliefs stand up next to somebody else's views.

It's not easy for birds of a feather to leave their flock, but sometimes it's worth it.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Comment on Clarence Page's column by clicking here.


© 2007, TMS