iyengar-poq-affect-not-ideology.pdf - Public Opinion...

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AFFECT, NOT IDEOLOGY A SOCIAL IDENTITY PERSPECTIVE ON POLARIZATION SHANTO IYENGAR* GAURAV SOOD YPHTACH LELKES Abstract The current debate over the extent of polarization in the American mass public focuses on the extent to which partisans’ policy preferences have moved. Whereas “maximalists” claim that partisans’ views on policies have become more extreme over time ( Abramowitz 2010 ), “minimalists” ( Fiorina and Abrams 2009 ) contend that the major- ity of Americans remain centrist, and that what little centrifugal move- ment has occurred reflects sorting, i.e., the increased association between partisanship and ideology. We argue in favor of an alternative definition of polarization, based on the classic concept of social distance ( Bogardus 1947 ). Using data from a variety of sources, we demonstrate that both Republicans and Democrats increasingly dislike, even loathe, their oppo- nents. We also find that partisan affect is inconsistently (and perhaps arti- factually) founded in policy attitudes. The more plausible account lies in the nature of political campaigns; exposure to messages attacking the out-group reinforces partisans’ biased views of their opponents. Introduction Scholarship on political polarization, with very few exceptions, focuses exclusively on policy preferences. By this definition, American party elites have become increasingly polarized over the past four decades ( Fleisher and Bond 2001 ; Hetherington 2002 ; McCarty, Poole, and Rosenthal 2006 ). Roll Shanto Iyengar is the Harry & Norman Chandler Professor of Communication and Professor of Political Science, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA. Gaurav Sood is a postdoctoral research associate, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA. Yphtach Lelkes is an Assistant Professor of Political Communication, Amsterdam School of Communication Research, The University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Shanto Iyengar’s contribution to this work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea Grant funded by the Korean government [NRF-2010–330-B00028]. *Address correspond- ence to Shanto Iyengar, Stanford University, Building 120, Room 110, 450 Serra Mall, Stanford, CA 94305, USA; e-mail: [email protected] . Public Opinion Quarterly © The Author 2012. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Association for Public Opinion Research. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: [email protected] doi:10.1093/poq/nfs038
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call analysis of congressional voting ( Poole, Rosenthal, and Koford 1991 ; McCarty, Poole, and Rosenthal 2001 ), interest-group ratings of congress- men ( Stonecash, Brewer, and Mariani 2003 ), analysis of party platforms ( Layman 1999 ), and surveys of party activists ( Aldrich 1995 ; Layman 1999 ; Layman, Carsey, and Horowitz 2006 ) all show increased division between the Democrats and the Republicans on the issues.
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