Party Polarization in the U.S
Party polarization, or the gap between Democratic and Republican Party ideologies, has been an increasingly popular topic over the last couple decades. A study done by The Pew Research Center on, “The Widening Partisan Differences in Political Values,” found that the average percentage point difference between Republican and Democrat values had nearly doubled – from 10 points in 1987 to 18 in 2012.
The rise of technology and the spread of globalization has made it easier than ever for people to communicate, learn, and share. However, it has also made it easier for partisan media to create ideologic echo chambers.
With the use of algorithms, platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, YouTube and Instagram, reinforce people’s biases by suggesting content that already aligns with their beliefs and values. Some of this content can become quite extreme and can make it easy for partisans to develop negative feelings about not just their opposing political party, but even the people making up their own party.
However, social media is not all to blame for this polarizing affect. According to an article about, “The Negative Effects of Advertising,” political campaigns have become overwhelmingly negative and focus more on tearing down rival opponents rather than supporting their own ideas.
Since the 1960s there has been an increase in the amount of negative advertising in American campaigns. Although only 10% of advertisements aired in the 1960 campaign were negative, in the 2012 campaign only 14.3% of aired ads were positive.
In 2019, a study by Pew Research claimed that partisanship was the dividing factor in the American public’s political values and attitudes. It also found that the partisan gap surpassed the gap from differences in gender, race, religion, age and education.
This rise in partisanship has led to partisan antipathy amongst the political parties. Members of both parties share unfavorable opinions about each other. During the 2016 elections, a poll found that, “47 percent of Republicans said that Democrats are more “immoral” than other Americans; 35 percent of Democrats held that view about Republicans.”
Partisanship not only has the power to polarize people, but also the government. One theory suggests that, whether knowingly or unknowingly, the governments legislative process contributes heavily to party polarization.
While initially primary elections were created to help democratize the electoral process, over time, the process has incentivized partisan polarization. Unfortunately, when compared to the general elections, primary elections have a lower turn out rate.
The individuals who do show up to primaries are often times more politically involved and hold more ideologically extreme views. The outcome of this is that the candidates who do win the primaries hold some of the same extreme views of the people that voted for them. This leaves everyone else who votes in the general election with candidates who over time contribute to more polarization.
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