The Rise of Partisan Affective Polarization in the British Public
29 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2019 Last revised: 10 Dec 2019
Date Written: October 25, 2019
Partisan affective polarization is an increasingly salient feature of American political life. Yet, this phenomenon and its drivers have received comparatively little attention in the UK. This paper addresses this gap by systematically analyzing trends in partisan animosity among the British public between 1997 and 2018. Using data from the British Election Study (BES), we demonstrate that British partisans, especially older and strong identifiers, have become substantially more hostile towards opposite parties while favorizing their own over the past two decades. Against conventional wisdom which associates partisan animosity with divergences in policy attitudes, our data show that political identity — particularly the degree of one’s attachment to a political party — is a much stronger predictor of voters’ affective evaluations than holding extreme policy views or displaying consistent ideological and partisan loyalties.
Keywords: affective polarization; partisanship, British public, partisan bias, social identity
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