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Does Affective Polarization Undermine Support for Democratic Norms? (WP-20-10)

Jon Kingzette, James Druckman, Samara Klar, Yanna Krupnikov, Matthew Levendusky, and John Barry Ryan

Affective polarization—the tendency of individuals to dislike and distrust those from the other party—has a number of pernicious consequences documented in previous work. One consequence hypothesized—but not tested—is that affective polarization undermines support for democratic norms. Contrary to this expectation, the researchers find affective polarization does not necessarily undermine support for norms. Instead, they find party identity conditions the relationship in ways that mimic the impact of polarization on other policy issues. Put another way, citizens view fundamental democratic norms as no different than other issues. These results rebut the straightforward expectation that negative out-group attitudes reduce support for democratic norms, but they are nevertheless troubling for U.S. democracy. Norms are politicized and they divide—rather than unite —partisans.

Jon Kingzette, PhD Candidate, Department of Political Science, The Ohio State University

James Druckman, Payson S. Wild Professor of Political Science and IPR Fellow, Northwestern University

Samara Klar, Associate Professor, School of Government and Public Policy, University of Arizona

Yanna Krupnikov, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Stony Brook University

Matthew Levendusky, Professor Political Science and Stephen and Mary Baran Chair in the Institutions of Democracy, University of Pennsylvania

John Barry Ryan, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Stony Brook University

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