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The role of affective orientations in promoting perceived polarization

Miles T. Armaly and Adam M. Enders

Political Science Research and Methods, 2021, vol. 9, issue 3, 615-626

Abstract: Recent work on political divisions in the mass public has identified several manifestations of polarization linked to different types of attitudes, orientations, and behaviors. Of these, affective polarization and perceived polarization have attracted increasing attention, though we still know fairly little of the links between these variants of polarization. In this paper, we examine the association between affective and perceived polarization, with an aim toward disentangling any potential causal relationship between the two processes. Using two sets of nationally representative panel data from 1992 to 1996 and 2008 to 2009, we find evidence that affective polarization causes perceived polarization, and that perceived polarization is not related to future affective polarization. Stratifying the models by level of political information, we find that the strength and statistical significance of the relationships between past and future values of affective and perceived polarization are conditional on political sophistication: more sophisticated individuals exhibit stronger relationships.

Date: 2021
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