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Partisan Affect and Elite Polarization

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 November 2018

The University of Chicago
Yale University


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.

Copyright © American Political Science Association 2018 

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We thank the editors, three anonymous reviewers, and participants at various conferences for their helpful suggestions.


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