Origin of (A)symmetry: The Evolution of Out-Party Distrust in the United States

35 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2023 Last revised: 11 Oct 2023

See all articles by Bouke Klein Teeselink

Bouke Klein Teeselink

King's College London; Yale School of Management

Georgios Melios

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science; University College London

Date Written: March 9, 2023

Abstract

Partisans tend to be skeptical of governments only when they are led by the other side. This president-in-power effect threatens democratic functioning by limiting partisans’ ability to hold their own party accountable. As polarization rises, the problems associated with this phenomenon are likely to aggravate. This paper examines the evolution and drivers of the president-in-power effect since 1974. Mirroring the general rise in polarization, we document a steady increase in the president-in-power effect. Our research demonstrates that this increase can be attributed to an intensification of partisan identification, combined with a growing perceived ideological distance towards the opposed party. Contrasting the narrative that polarization is stronger on the right, however, we find evidence that the president-in-power effect has grown faster for Democrats than for Republicans. To explain this pattern, we show that highly educated people, who display a stronger president-in-power effect, have shifted towards the left in recent years.

Keywords: Partisanship, Polarization, Political Psychology

Suggested Citation

Klein Teeselink, Bouke and Melios, Georgios, Origin of (A)symmetry: The Evolution of Out-Party Distrust in the United States (March 9, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4404221

Bouke Klein Teeselink

King's College London ( email )

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Yale School of Management ( email )

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Georgios Melios (Contact Author)

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science ( email )

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University College London ( email )

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