Gregory Huber: “Is Affective Polarization Driven by Identity, Loyalty,or Substance?”

Gregory Huber and Lilla Orr
July 21, 2023

Gregory Huber,  Forst Family Professor of Political Science, Director of the ISPS Behavioral Research Lab and the Chair of the Department of Political Science, has a new article with PhD. program graduate Lilla Orr, Assistant Professor of Data Science and Statistics at the University of Richmond, entitled “Is Affective Polarization Driven by Identity, Loyalty,or Substance?


Partisan Americans like members of their own party more than members of the opposing party. Scholars often interpret this as evidence that party identity or loyalty influence interpersonal affect. First, we reassess previous studies and demonstratethat prior results are also consistent with what we would predict if people cared only about policy agreement. Next, wedemonstrate the difficulty of manipulating perceptions of party identity without also manipulating beliefs about policyagreement and vice versa. Finally, we show that partisans care much more about policy agreement than they do aboutparty loyalty when the two come into conflict. Our analyses suggest that partisan Americans care about policy agreement;we have little convincing evidence that they care about partisan identity or loyalty per se, and scholars will have to find newresearch designs if they want to convincingly estimate the effects of identity or loyalty independent of policy substance.

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