Republicans and polarization

Discussed political polarization in my Political Parties class yesterday.  I really like this summary of things from friend/partisanship expert, Alexander Thedoridis:

But one particular feature of this polarization is especially important to understand heading into the next four years. In Asymmetric Politics, Matt Grossmann and David Hopkins show us that there are important qualitative differences between the two parties. The Democratic Party is best described as a collection of group interests and the Republican Party is unified by ideology. This finding may be either the cause of or the product of a phenomenon my research has shown in study after study. Over and over, Republican voters behave in more partisan ways than do their Democratic counterparts. They identify more strongly with their party. They show more bias in interpreting new information. They engage in more boosting of their party (and derogation of the other). And, they are more likely to select out of receiving messages from the other side. [emphasis mine]

I call this phenomenon of asymmetric polarization the Intensity Gap. This is a gap I believe has played an important role in President Obama’s administration and will likely be even more important heading into a Trump Administration. The heightened partisan intensity among Republicans both frees and constrains Republican leaders. It can mean that they suffer a penalty among their base for appearing to compromise with Democrats, and that the consequences of obstruction may be minimal. This all foretells ongoing gridlock and division.

So, how do we get out of this pattern?  Beats me.  Or what my students were able to come up with in group discussions.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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