Affective polarization—the tendency of ordinary partisans to dislike and distrust those from the other party—is a defining feature of contemporary American politics. High levels of out-party animus stem, in part, from misperceptions of the other party’s voters. Specifically, individuals misestimate the ideological extremity and political engagement of typical out-partisans. When partisans are asked about “Democrats” or the “Republican Party,” they bring to mind stereotypes of engaged ideologues and, hence, express contempt for the other party. The reality, however, is that such individuals are the exception rather than the norm. We show that when partisans learn that reality, partisan animus falls sharply; partisans do not have much animus toward the typical member of the other party. Our results suggest antidotes for vitiating affective polarization but also complicate understandings of good citizenship.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science