Issue Ownership vs. Conflict Extension: Understanding State Party Polarization

26 Pages Posted: 22 May 2014

Date Written: May 20, 2014


Based on analysis of party platforms written in 2012, I find that state political parties are highly polarized. Two leading theories about party issue positions, “issue ownership” and “conflict extension” lead to different predictions about the nature and degree of issue conflict. I find that across states, the two parties have different issue priorities, as predicted by issue ownership. At the same time, there is considerable heterogeneity within each party. There is a smaller degree of within-state variance in conflict; parties within the same states tend to emphasize the same issues. Conflict extension seems to best characterize differences at the state level, as party platforms articulate clearly different views on a wide range of issues. Once again, however, there is within-party ideological heterogeneity. Moreover, not every issue is similarly polarized; on gun control state Democratic parties are relatively moderate across states, while Republicans have moderated over time on drug policy

Keywords: Political Parties, State Politics, Political Geography, Content Analysis, Text Analysis

Suggested Citation

Coffey, Daniel J., Issue Ownership vs. Conflict Extension: Understanding State Party Polarization (May 20, 2014). Available at SSRN: or

Daniel J. Coffey (Contact Author)

University of Akron ( email )

302 Buchtel Common
Akron, OH 44325-1904
United States


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