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Elite Polarization, Partisan Ambivalence, and a Preference for Divided Government

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Abstract:

We examine how party polarization at the elite level influences the structure of partisan attitudes at the mass level. If elite party polarization has clarified party conflict for the mass public, we might expect polarization to decrease ambivalence toward the political parties. There are several reasons, however, to doubt any simple relationship between party polarization and partisan ambivalence. First, by increasing the clarity of party positions, polarization may heighten citizens' awareness of discrepancies between their party identifications and other political preferences. Second, although initial increases in polarization may indeed reduce partisan ambivalence, continued polarization may outpace the univalence of most citizens' party-related attitudes, thereby increasing ambivalence. This suggests the occurrence of both a nonlinear (quadratic) effect of polarization (i.e., polarization squared), as well as an interaction between the nonlinear polarization component and inconsistency.

Using NES data from 1972-2004, we test both possibilities. We find that the effect of polarization is both non-linear (quadratic), and conditional on the consistency between voters' party ID and other political preferences. Among the strongest partisans, polarization exerts a negative linear effect on ambivalence: increasing polarization leads to increasing univalence in partisan attitudes. The effect among partisan leaners and independents is exactly the opposite: polarization heightens ambivalence in a positive linear manner. Finally, among "weak" partisans polarization exerts a strongly quadratic effect on ambivalence. As we expected, initial levels of polarization dampened ambivalence, but past the polarization tipping point, it produced increases in ambivalence toward the parties.

Author's Keywords:

ambivalence, partisanship, polarization
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Name: ISPP 31st Annual Scientific Meeting
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http://ispp.org


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p256270_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Lavine, Howard., Johnston, Christopher., Steenbergen, Marco. and Perkins, David. "Elite Polarization, Partisan Ambivalence, and a Preference for Divided Government" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ISPP 31st Annual Scientific Meeting, Sciences Po, Paris, France, Jul 09, 2008 <Not Available>. 2013-12-14 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p256270_index.html>

APA Citation:

Lavine, H. , Johnston, C. D., Steenbergen, M. and Perkins, D. , 2008-07-09 "Elite Polarization, Partisan Ambivalence, and a Preference for Divided Government" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ISPP 31st Annual Scientific Meeting, Sciences Po, Paris, France <Not Available>. 2013-12-14 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p256270_index.html

Publication Type: Paper (prepared oral presentation)
Abstract: We examine how party polarization at the elite level influences the structure of partisan attitudes at the mass level. If elite party polarization has clarified party conflict for the mass public, we might expect polarization to decrease ambivalence toward the political parties. There are several reasons, however, to doubt any simple relationship between party polarization and partisan ambivalence. First, by increasing the clarity of party positions, polarization may heighten citizens' awareness of discrepancies between their party identifications and other political preferences. Second, although initial increases in polarization may indeed reduce partisan ambivalence, continued polarization may outpace the univalence of most citizens' party-related attitudes, thereby increasing ambivalence. This suggests the occurrence of both a nonlinear (quadratic) effect of polarization (i.e., polarization squared), as well as an interaction between the nonlinear polarization component and inconsistency.

Using NES data from 1972-2004, we test both possibilities. We find that the effect of polarization is both non-linear (quadratic), and conditional on the consistency between voters' party ID and other political preferences. Among the strongest partisans, polarization exerts a negative linear effect on ambivalence: increasing polarization leads to increasing univalence in partisan attitudes. The effect among partisan leaners and independents is exactly the opposite: polarization heightens ambivalence in a positive linear manner. Finally, among "weak" partisans polarization exerts a strongly quadratic effect on ambivalence. As we expected, initial levels of polarization dampened ambivalence, but past the polarization tipping point, it produced increases in ambivalence toward the parties.

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Similar Titles:
Elite Polarization, Partisan Ambivalence, and a Preference for Divided Government

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