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Tribalism in America: Behavioral Experiments on Affective Polarization in the Trump Era

  • Sam Whitt (a1), Alixandra B. Yanus (a1), Brian McDonald (a1), John Graeber (a1), Mark Setzler (a1), Gordon Ballingrud (a1) and Martin Kifer (a1)...

Abstract

Our research speaks to the ongoing debate over the extent and severity of partisan political divisions in American society. We employ behavioral experiments to probe for affective polarization using dictator, trust, and public goods games with party identification treatments. We find that subjects who identify politically with the Democratic or Republican Party and ideologically as liberals and conservatives display stronger affective biases than politically unaffiliated and ideological moderates. Partisan subjects are less altruistic, less trusting, and less likely to contribute to a mutually beneficial public good when paired with members of the opposing party. Compared to other behavioral studies, our research suggests increasing levels of affective polarization in the way Americans relate to one another politically, bordering on the entrenched divisions one commonly sees in conflict or post-conflict societies. To overcome affective polarization, our research points to inter-group contact as a mechanism for increasing trust and bridging political divides.

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Corresponding author

*Corresponding author. Email: swhitt@highpoint.edu

References

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Tribalism in America: Behavioral Experiments on Affective Polarization in the Trump Era

  • Sam Whitt (a1), Alixandra B. Yanus (a1), Brian McDonald (a1), John Graeber (a1), Mark Setzler (a1), Gordon Ballingrud (a1) and Martin Kifer (a1)...

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