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Partisan Affect and Elite Polarization


We examine the interaction between partisan affect and elite polarization in a behavioral voting model. Voting is determined by affect rather than rational choice. Parties are office-motivated; they choose policies to win elections. We show that parties bias their policies toward their partisans if voters exhibit ingroup responsiveness, i.e., they respond more strongly to their own party’s policy deviations than to policy deviations by the other party. Our results suggest that affective polarization is a driver of the growing elite polarization in American politics. Importantly, this observation does not assume any shifts in the voters’ bliss points and is therefore orthogonal to the controversy over whether the American electorate has become more polarized in ideology.

Corresponding author
*Daniel Diermeier, Harris School of Public Policy and Office of the Provost, The University of Chicago, 5801 South Ellis Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637, and Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, CIFAR Program on Institutions, Organizations, and Growth,
Christopher Li, Cowles Foundation, Yale University,
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We thank the editors, three anonymous reviewers, and participants at various conferences for their helpful suggestions.

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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
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