Recent scholarship suggests that American partisans dislike other party members so much that partisanship has become the main social divide in modern politics. We argue that at least one measure of this “affective polarization” conflates a dislike for members of the other party with a dislike for partisanship in general. The measure asks people how they feel about their child marrying someone from another party. What seems like negative affect toward the other party is, in fact, negative affect toward partisans from either side of the aisle and political discussion in general. Relying on two national experiments, we demonstrate that although some Americans are politically polarized, more simply want to avoid talking about politics. In fact, many people do not want their child to marry someone from their own party if that hypothetical in-law were to discuss politics frequently. Supplementary analyses using ANES feeling thermometers show that inparty feeling thermometer ratings have decreased in recent years among weak and leaning partisans. As a result, the feeling thermometer results confirm the conclusion from the experiments. Polarization is a phenomenon concentrated in the one-third of Americans who consider themselves strong partisans. More individuals are averse to partisan politics. The analyses demonstrate how affective polarization exists alongside weakening partisan identities.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science
- Social Sciences(all)
- History and Philosophy of Science