Political polarization across the globe has become a key emerging risk for enterprises in different industries, according to research from Gartner.
The polarization entered the quarterly Gartner emerging risk tracker for the first time in the fourth quarter of 2023, and it was ranked second behind the mass availability of generative AI.
Overall, 69% of the 347 risk executives surveyed listed political polarization as a key concern in the most recent Gartner emerging risk report.
In the U.S., the 2024 presidential election that is shaping up to be a rematch between Joe Biden and Donald Trump is likely to spark political tensions in workplaces.
“Risk executives worldwide are clearly concerned by the potential implications of escalating tensions and conflict all over the globe,” said Ran Xu, director, research in the Gartner Risk & Audit Practice, in a press release. “From Ukraine, the Middle East, the East China Sea, South America, Africa, Western Europe or the U.S., there is evidence of geopolitical instability rooted in increasing political polarization around a number of issues.”
Gartner identified three main factors driving the uptick in political polarization.
The first is what it called “reinforcing social media algorithms.”
“Algorithms that are designed to ensure engagement and retention on social media platforms by delivering tailored content to individual users, also lead to information silos that feed confirmation bias and can reinforce divisive political outlooks,” Gartner said.
The second key contributor is pervasive economic pessimism, which it said can contribute to “extreme ideological realignments.”
“Although the global economy is still growing, commodity and housing prices remain high amid a recent episode of increased inflation and higher interest rates, squeezing the finances of individuals worldwide,” Gartner said.
The third major contributing factor to political polarization is the politicization of civic institutions, the research organization said.
The increasing political scrutiny of formerly neutral civic institutions causes public trust in them to waver, according to Gartner.
Additionally, individuals can then be more prone to “seek out non-mainstream information sources that align with preexisting beliefs, further reinforcing the impact of social media algorithms.”