Tag Archives: partisanship
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.
Americans are well conditioned to be contemptuous of the so-called “politics of personal destruction” where in contending candidates or parties level personal attacks against their political foes in an effort to discredit them in the minds of voters on matters not related to public policy or political philosophy. On the other hand, American voters have been equally well conditioned to celebrate another brand of personalized politics that is actually just as deceptive and destructive of deliberative democracy. Indeed, personal attacks on opponents would be far less useful in elections if not for Americans’ embrace of the other side of the personalized politics coin. The “politics of personal CONstruction” are not a popular subject of political cautionary tales, but they should be.