Partisanship, Social Identity, and American Government: Reality and Reflections
34 Pages Posted: 22 Dec 2017 Last revised: 29 Aug 2018
Date Written: December 19, 2017
On the conventional account of American voter behavior, voters assess policy options in a range of areas, they develop preferences among those options, and then they bring those preferences to bear when casting their ballots on Election Day. In this symposium contribution, I begin by pointing out ways in which this conventional belief in a policy-driven electorate undergirds important constitutional doctrines in the areas of voting, speech, and federalism. I then examine the substantial body of evidence indicating that electoral behavior often has little to do with voters' autonomous evaluation of policy options, and has much to do with the belief- and behavior-shaping power of voters' social identifications, particularly those of a politically partisan variety. I close by reflecting on ways in which those of us who teach and write about the law might respond to this continually growing body of empirical work.
Keywords: partisan, partisanship, social identity, social identities, social identification, in group, out group, voter, democracy, federalism, republican, democrat, bias
JEL Classification: K10, K30, K40, K49
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation