The “WalkAway” campaign, started by Brandon Straka, is about exiting the Democratic Party. We studied the videos on the movement’s official YouTube channel, including 150 people who walked away. A large majority report a civility gap between the left and the non-left. Fully 70 percent suggested that the left is less civil than Republicans and others.
These 150 individuals provide heartfelt testimony as people who used to vote Democratic. Their testimony is credible and compelling. It is hard not to be moved by their testimony of a civility gap. Many describe the fallout from deviating from leftist opinions — vitriol, un-friending at Facebook, and so on. Many lost real friends, close friends, because they moved away from the Democratic mindset.
Our method is observational data, not a questionnaire. We observe that 70 percent suggest a civility gap. The other 30 percent don’t say one way or the other. So the 70 percent is a lower bound on the percentage who see a civility gap. We suspect that close to 100 percent of the erstwhile Democrats would testify that there is a civility gap.
The WalkAway movement was launched in June 2018 by Straka, when he uploaded what became the prototypical video of an individual telling his or her story about walking away. WalkAway videos are abundant at YouTube, but our study, to appear in “Society,” examines only those at the official site posted June 29 to Nov. 5, 2018.
For eight of the individuals, the video itself is their “coming out.” Most of them express apprehension about the grief they will catch. One, Justin, describes his experience in his video titled “I’m gay and I chose to #WalkAway after testing conservatives.”
I had lost over 500 friends on Facebook. … I decided to do a couple of experiments because people said the Republican Party will never accept you, as a gay man, they’re against your lifestyle, they hate you. So I found the largest Trump, pro-Trump groups on Facebook, I joined them, and I posted in these groups — intentionally the ones that felt the most extreme-right to me — about my sexual preference, about being raised Buddhist, about my feelings on same-sex marriage, how I felt about equality. … And in one of these groups I got over 1,000 responses. I read every single one of them. And there was not a single disparaging word. There was not a single insult.
We have not investigated the veracity of Justin’s account, but it represents themes of the WalkAway videos.
The civility gap is very real. Enormities of the past few years have made it palpable. If the civility gap is as real and as large as it seems to us, that would prompt a disturbing but important question: Do the civility gap and the difference in political views stem from a single source? Is there something that could explain both together?
Daniel Klein is professor of economics at George Mason University. Cy Fleming holds a B.S. in applied mathematics and is an independent scholar.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.