Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=2186601
 
 

References (60)



 
 

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The Exaggeration of Political Polarization in America


Jacob Westfall


University of Colorado Boulder

John R. Chambers


St. Louis University

Charles M. Judd


University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Psychology

Leaf Van Boven


University of Colorado Boulder

December 7, 2012


Abstract:     
The study uses data collected in the American National Election Studies between 1970 and 2004 to examine Americans’ perceptions of polarization between Democrats and Republicans. Respondents reported their own attitudes on partisan issues, such as whether the government should increase spending and provide more services, and they estimated the attitudes of Democrats and Republicans. Over the years and across issues, people generally exaggerated polarization, overestimating the mean difference between Democrats’ and Republicans’ attitudes. The tendency to exaggerate polarization was larger among people who were more partisan themselves — those who identified more strongly as either Democrat or Republican and held relatively extreme attitudes. Strength of partisan identification and attitude extremity were independently predictive of respondents’ exaggerated polarization. Also, exaggerated polarization was predictive of civic actions (e.g., voting in national elections, making campaign contributions, attempting to persuade others), independent of people’s own partisan identification and attitude extremity. These findings demonstrate the importance of social psychological theory for understanding how Americans perceive the political landscape, and how such perceptions predict political behavior.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 43

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Date posted: December 9, 2012  

Suggested Citation

Westfall, Jacob and Chambers, John R. and Judd, Charles M. and Van Boven, Leaf, The Exaggeration of Political Polarization in America (December 7, 2012). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2186601 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2186601

Contact Information

Jacob Westfall
University of Colorado Boulder ( email )
1070 Edinboro Drive
Boulder, CO 80309
United States
John R. Chambers
St. Louis University ( email )
3511 LaClede Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63103
United States
Charles M. Judd
University of Colorado at Boulder - Department of Psychology ( email )
Boulder, 80309
United States
Leaf Van Boven (Contact Author)
University of Colorado Boulder ( email )
University of Colorado Boulder
Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, 345 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309
United States
303.735.5238 (Phone)
303.492.2967 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://psych.colorado.edu/~vanboven/
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References:  60
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