CHICAGO — With political divisiveness at a continued high, Golin has rolled out a new offering that tracks the country’s most contentious issues.

Built with USC Annenberg and Zignal Labs, along with Golin data & analytics head Jonny Bentwood, the polarization index uses data gleaned from media and social conversations to measure the polarization of key issues, providing business leaders with data useful in shaping their responses to them.

Understanding public opinion on topics such as immigration, Covid vaccines and racial equality play a key role in executives’ corporate strategies and whether to take stands on hot-button issues, said Scott Farrell, Golin’s president of global corporate communications.

“Polarization is a pervasive problem. It affects everything we do from decisions in the c-suite all the way to who sits down next to Uncle Charlie at Thanksgiving,” Farrell said.

Having data-based information enables business leaders to assess the risk of engaging in a particular issue, Farrell said. “The stakes of getting it wrong are too high to be left to guessing or subjective judgements," he said.

Polarization rankings are updated regularly for clients. Golin will also be issuing quarterly polarization index reports, the first of which analyzed the third quarter of this year.

That inaugural report, which was based on 60 million social media posts over 12 months,  found immigration to be the most polarizing issue in the country, followed by policing policy, racial equity and gun legislation.

The report also showed that there was only a slight drop in the larger polarization of the country from the year before.  In Q3 of this year, polarization ranked 82.5 on a scale of one to 100, due to increases related to immigration and policing policy. In Q3 2020, overall polarization ranked 85.1, primarily due to disputes over voting integrity.

While the index currently is focused on the US, the tool will evolve over time, Bentwood said. Expanding geographically and grouping issues by topic are among the possibilities.