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The Partisan Next Door

Stereotypes of Party Supporters and Consequences for Polarization in America

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 September 2021

Ethan C. Busby
Brigham Young University
Adam J. Howat
Oberlin College, Ohio
Jacob E. Rothschild
Reality Check Insights
Richard M. Shafranek
HIT Strategies


In the United States, politics has become tribal and personalized. The influence of partisan divisions has extended beyond the political realm into everyday life, affecting relationships and workplaces as well as the ballot box. To help explain this trend, we examine the stereotypes Americans have of ordinary Democrats and Republicans. Using data from surveys, experiments, and Americans' own words, we explore the content of partisan stereotypes and find that they come in three main flavors—parties as their own tribes, coalitions of other tribes, or vehicles for political issues. These different stereotypes influence partisan conflict: people who hold trait-based stereotypes tend to display the highest levels of polarization, while holding issue-based stereotypes decreases polarization. This finding suggests that reducing partisan conflict does not require downplaying partisan divisions but shifting the focus to political priorities rather than identity—a turn to what we call responsible partisanship.
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Online ISBN: 9781009086462
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication: 07 October 2021

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