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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter June 9, 2018

Losing Common Ground: Social Sorting and Polarization

  • Lilliana Mason EMAIL logo
From the journal The Forum


The alignment between partisan and other social identities has generated a rift between Democrats and Republicans that is deeper than any seen in recent American history. Without the cross-cutting identities that have traditionally stabilized the American two-party system, partisans in the American electorate are now seeing each other through prejudiced and intolerant eyes. In this article, partisan social divisions are examined in the 2016 electorate, with an eye to the co-occurrence between these social divisions and contemporaneous resistance to compromise and intolerance of social outgroups. In particular, as Republicans and Democrats grow more socially distinct, they like outgroups less and privilege victory over the national greater good. This effect is particularly visible among Republicans, whose social makeup is particularly homogeneous, even in comparison with Democrats. Some potential solutions are briefly addressed.


ANES 2016 Items

Issue Constraint Items:

  1. Do you think the number of immigrants from foreign countries who are

    permitted to come to the US to live should be [increased a lot, increased a little, left the same as it is now, decreased a little, or decreased a lot/decreased a lot, decreased a little, left the same as it is now, increased a little, or increased a lot]?

  2. Do you favor, oppose, or neither favor nor oppose the health care reform law passed in 2010? This law requires all Americans to buy health insurance and requires health insurance companies to accept everyone.


    Do you favor that [a great deal, moderately, or a little/a little, moderately, or a great deal]?


    Do you oppose that [a great deal, moderately, or a little/a little, moderately, or a great deal]?

  3. There has been some discussion about abortion during recent years. Which one of the opinions on this page best agrees with your view? You can just tell me the number of the opinion you choose.

    1. By law, abortion should never be permitted.

    2. By law, only in case of rape, incest, or woman’s life in danger.

    3. By law, for reasons other than rape, incest, or woman’s life in danger if need established.

    4. By law, abortion as a matter of personal choice.

  4. Which comes closest to your view? You can just tell me the number of your choice.

    1. Gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to legally marry.

    2. Gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to form civil unions but not legally marry.

    3. There should be no legal recognition of a gay or lesbian couple’s relationship.

  5. Do you think the federal government should make it more difficult for people to buy a gun than it is now, make it easier for people to buy a gun, or keep these rules about the same as they are now?

  6. When the US federal government spends more money than it collects, the difference is called the federal budget deficit. The federal government currently has a deficit. How important is it to reduce the deficit? [Extremely important, very important, moderately important, a little important, or not at all important?/Not at all important, a little important, moderately important, very important, or extremely important?].


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Published Online: 2018-6-9

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