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.