Perception or reality: Just how divided is America, really?

Is that a fact?

Oct 14 2021 • 1 hr 5 mins

In this episode, we set out to explore whether the narrative of the country’s deep political polarization is fiction or reality. If you follow the news, you’ve probably heard that the country is deeply divided on political issues. Since 1992, no presidential candidate has received more than 53% of the popular vote. In recent years, Congress has routinely been deadlocked over some of the country’s most pressing issues. But what’s going on in the Capitol is not necessarily reflected in the hearts of many Americans. In fact, when you step back, it turns out most of us are more moderate than this narrative of extremes would suggest.

For this episode, our first guest is U.S. director of More in Common, Dan Vallone, who discusses research into what his organization has dubbed the “perception gap”.

Then, we talk to former Republican Member of Congress Charlie Dent about his experience on the Hill as a moderate representing the swing state of Pennsylvania. (Starts at 27:40).

And finally, we conclude this episode in conversation with Charles Whitaker, the Dean of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, who calls out the news media for playing up the us-versus-them narrative of political polarization and shares what schools like his are doing to encourage their students to take a new approach. (Starts at 46:00).

Is that a fact? is brought to you by the nonpartisan, non-profit News Literacy Project. For more information, go to

Is that a fact? is a production of the News Literacy Project, a nonpartisan education nonprofit building a national movement to create a more news-literate America. Our host is Darragh Worland, our producer is Mike Webb, our editor is Timothy Kramer, and our theme music is by Eryn Busch.