Skip to main content

Affective Polarization in the American Public (WP-21-27)

James Druckman and Jeremy Levy

Affective polarization in the United States – the gap between individuals’ positive feelings toward their own political party and negative feelings toward the opposing party – has increased markedly in the past two decades. The authors review recent work on affective polarization, focusing on causes, consequences, and antidotes. In the last few years, there has been new work in all of these areas, and particularly when it comes to political consequences (as opposed to social consequences) and antidotes. Recent work shows a link between affective polarization and some concerning behaviors such as deleterious reactions to COVID-19; however, connections between affective polarization and dire outcomes regarding violence and democratic backsliding remain unclear. While possible antidotes to affective polarization focus on correcting stereotypes or priming common identities, more work is needed to determine which causes and antidotes apply most directly to political consequences.

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

Jeremy Levy, Department of Political Science, Northwestern University

Download PDF