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The Power of the Dark Side: Negative Partisanship and Political Behaviour in Canada

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 October 2014

Nicholas J. Caruana
University of Western Ontario
R. Michael McGregor
Bishop's University
Laura B. Stephenson
University of Western Ontario


The origins and implications of partisan identification are well-studied, but negative partisan attitudes—dislike for a particular party—have escaped such scrutiny, even as the politics of negativity enjoys sustained popularity, especially come election time. In this paper we build upon the comparatively modest negative partisanship literature to consider the effects of negative partisan attitudes on a range of political behaviours. There are reasons to suspect that negative and positive partisanship may have different effects; thus, accounting for the unique influence of negative attitudes is important for understanding the full effect of partisanship on political behaviour. Our results, based upon Canadian Election Study data from 2008 and 2011, reveal that, in addition to vote choice, negative partisanship influences voter turnout and a range of political activities, both related and unrelated to parties. These findings provide evidence of the power of the “dark side” of partisanship.


Les origines et les implications de la partisannerie sont bien connues, mais les orientations partisanes négatives–c'est à dire, l'antipathie ou l'aversion envers un parti politique en particulier–sont méconnues et ceci, alors même que la politique de la négativité demeure largement répandue, surtout en période électorale. Cet article cherche à étoffer le modeste corpus d’études relatives à la partisannerie négative en considérant les effets des attitudes partisanes négatives sur un éventail de comportements politiques. Il y a de nombreuses raisons de croire que la partisannerie négative et positive engendrent différents effets. Il est donc important de tenir compte de l'influence spécifique des attitudes négatives pour comprendre l'effet de la partisannerie sur le comportement politique. Nos résultats, fondés sur les données des Études électorales canadiennes des années 2008 et 2012, démontrent qu'en plus du choix électoral, la partisannerie négative influence le taux de participation ainsi qu'une variété d'activités politiques, liées ou non aux partis. Ces résultats attestent de la force du «côté obscur» de la partisannerie politique.

Research Article
Copyright © Canadian Political Science Association (l'Association canadienne de science politique) and/et la Société québécoise de science politique 2014 

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