From Foe to Friend and Back Again: The Temporal Dynamics of Intra-Party bias in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election
35 Pages Posted: 4 Oct 2016 Last revised: 30 Mar 2018
Date Written: March 25, 2018
Political identification is the basis of enduring conflict, suggesting that political attitudes are difficult to change. Here we show that in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, political identities underwent striking modification in response to salient political events. The shift from party primaries (characterized by intra-party conflict) to the general election (characterized by inter-party conflict) caused animosities between supporters of rival primary candidates to attenuate as superordinate goals (defeat rival party) and identities (Democrat/Republican) solidified – but this unification did not last, particularly for the Democrats. We investigate these temporal dynamics in detail by collecting data at regular intervals from mid-June to early September 2016 and then again from mid-October through the general election in early November, 2016, total N = 3,958. We operationalize identification using prosocial giving between supporters of competing primary candidates recruited from Amazon Mechanical Turk. Initially, Democrats and Republicans showed intra-party bias, sharing more money with supporters of their favored primary candidate. Thereafter, party dynamics differed dramatically. In-group bias among Democrats remained high until the Democratic National Convention, disappeared shortly thereafter, and then returned during the final stage of the election. Bias among Republicans was generally high until the final days of the election. Furthermore, giving predicted voting intentions, and potentially offered additional insight beyond polling: the late resurgence of bias among Democrats was not reflected in voting intentions, but may have presaged the surprise Democratic election loss. Our results emphasize discontinuity and contingency of changing identities, and the potential utility of identity for predicting political outcomes.
Keywords: Elections, Republicans, Democrats, Intra-party bias, Dictator Game
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