Fundamental Drivers of Decision-Making

40 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2014

See all articles by Julie Wronski

Julie Wronski

George Washington University - School of Media and Public Affairs

Date Written: 2014


Research has found that authoritarianism has molded partisan sorting and polarization, as citizens divided themselves into the two parties along the authoritarian dimension based on party elites’ ideological positions on social issues. Yet, party elites also reflect demographic stereotypes which emerged from the Democratic Party diversifying, as they welcomed “outsider” social groups, while the Republican Party remained homogenous in its members. As such, I propose that authoritarianism reflects an aversion to diversity that individuals use when making sense of their partisan identities, and hypothesize that authoritarianism has shaped party affiliations of White citizens through social identity matches with party elites. Using hierarchal modeling techniques, this paper empirically tests which mechanism – party elites’ ideological positions or their social identities – best serves as the dynamic link between Whites citizens’ authoritarian dispositions and their party identifications over the past forty years. I demonstrate that the social identity match between citizen and party is a stronger predictor of party identity than the ideological match, especially among White Protestant authoritarians. All else being equal, White authoritarians identified with the party that best represented their in-groups, even if that meant identifying with the party of the left.

Keywords: authoritarianism, party identity, social identity, ideology

Suggested Citation

Wronski, Julie, Fundamental Drivers of Decision-Making (2014). APSA 2014 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN:

Julie Wronski (Contact Author)

George Washington University - School of Media and Public Affairs ( email )

805 21st St NW
Washington, DC 20052
United States

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