The Go F*** Yourself Model of Polarization

Political scientists have been debating how much polarization exists in the electorate for some time so this post at Wonkblog caught my eye, from Prof. Danny Hayes. He considers the recent incident during fiscal cliff negotiations in which Speaker John Boehner invited Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to perform an anatomically impossible feat.

Prof Hayes uses an article by Professors Shanto Iyengar, Gaurav Sood, and Yphtach Lelkes to note that polarization within the electorate may be “affective”: the scholars draw on social identify theory to make the argument that simply identifying with one party is enough to generate unfavorable impressions of the other party. So Boehner’s advice to Reid may have been more than men behaving badly, it may have promoted polarization in the electorate.

For those who doubt social identity theory, Prof. Hayes provides a decisive example: Red Sox and Yankee fans.

About Maurice T. Cunningham

Maurice T. Cunningham is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. He teaches courses in American government including Massachusetts Politics, The American Presidency, Catholics in Political Life, The Political Thought of Abraham Lincoln, American Political Thought, and Public Policy. His book Maximization, Whatever the Cost: Race, Redistricting and the Department of Justice examines the role of the DOJ in requiring states to maximize minority voting districts in the Nineties. He has published articles dealing with the role of the Catholic Church in Massachusetts politics and on party politics in the state. His research interests focus upon the changing political culture of Massachusetts.
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