Partisan Identity, Political Emotions, Political Participation

Berkeley Political Psychology Colloquium
Friday, March 15, 2013
4:00pm to 6:00pm
IGS Library, 109 Moses Hall
UC Berkeley

Partisanship is treated increasingly within political science research as a social identity that is more expressive then instrumental in nature (Greene 2002; Fowler and Kam, 2007; Lupu, 2012; Nicholson 2012; Miller and Conover 2012; Gerber, Huber, and Was hington 2010). Green, Palmquist and Schickler laid out a social identity approach to partisanship in their 2002 book Partisan Hearts and Minds viewing partisan identity as an enduring allegiance, largely unaffected by changing political opinions or party blunders. Few researchers, however, have fully embraced an identity measure of partisanship or provided a sharp test between a social identity and alternative instrumental explanations of partisanship. In this research, we examine the expressive and instrumental nature of partisanship in several steps. First, we develop a multi-item measure of partisan identity based on typical social identity scales. Second, we demonstrate that the partisan identity scale better predicts expressive political behavior, such as campaign involvement, than a multi-item scale of issue preferences. Third, we show that political emotions are aroused when strong partisan identifiers but not those with a strong, ideological set of issue positions are exposed to experimental electoral threat and reassurance. Fourth, threat and reassurance to party status (i.e., winning and losing) is far more effective in arousing strong emotions than threat or reassurance to a party’s issue platform. Our approach sheds light on the nature and dynamics of partisan emotions and political participation, an important topic at a time when American politics has become more partisan, strident, vitriolic, and polarized.