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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Monday, November 8, 2021

Peak Polarization

Our 2020 book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses the state of the parties.

 Alan J. Abramowitz, "Peak Polarization? The Rise of Partisan-Ideological Consistency and its Consequences."  Prepared for delivery at the State of the Parties Conference, Ray Bliss Institute, University of Akron, November 4-5, 2021

 This paper presents evidence from American National Election Studies surveys showing that party identification, ideological identification and issue positions have become much more closely connected over the past half century. As a result, the ideological divide between Democratic and Republican identifiers has widened considerably. Using the extensive battery of issue questions included in the 2020 ANES survey, I find that a single underlying liberalconservative dimension largely explains the policy preferences of ordinary Americans across a wide range of issues including the size and scope of the welfare state, abortion, gay and transgender rights, race relations, immigration, gun control and climate change. I find that the distribution of preferences on this liberal-conservative issue scale is highly polarized with Democratic identifiers and leaners located overwhelmingly on the left, Republican identifiers and leaners located overwhelmingly on the right and little overlap between the two distributions. Finally, I show that the rise of partisan-ideological consistency has had profound consequences for public opinion and voting behavior, contributing to growing affective polarization as well as increasing party loyalty and straight ticket voting. These findings indicate that polarization in the American public has a rational foundation. Hostility toward the opposing party reflects strong disagreement with the policies of the opposing party. As long as the parties remain on the opposite sides of almost all major issues, feelings of mistrust and animosity are unlikely to diminish regardless of Donald Trump’s future role in the Republican Party.