Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

The Forum

A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics

Ed. by Disalvo, Daniel / Stonecash, Jeffrey

IMPACT FACTOR 2018: 0.500
5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 0.623

CiteScore 2018: 0.83

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.595
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.631

See all formats and pricing
More options …
Volume 16, Issue 1


Seeing Red (or Blue): How Party Identity Colors Political Cognition

Stephen N. Goggin / Alexander G. Theodoridis
  • Corresponding author
  • Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of California, Merced, Merced, CA, USA
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2018-06-09 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/for-2018-0006


Many Americans associate themselves with their political party in a deep, visceral way. Voter identification with a political party has powerful implications for not just how voters behave, but how there are exposed to and receive information about the world. We describe how this tying of one’s self-concept to a party, which can be analogous to die-hard sports fandom, plays a central role in political cognition. It leads voters identifying with the two parties to perceive the political (and even seemingly apolitical) world in dramatically different ways. We detail the psychological mechanisms by which this party identity produces these distortions and offer examples of the bias that emerges. We conclude by discussing the implications of these phenomena for perpetuating our current hyper-polarized political discourse.


  • Abelson, Robert P., Elliot Ed Aronson, William J. McGuire, Theodore M. Newcomb, Milton J. Rosenberg, and Percy H. Tannenbaum. 1968. Theories of Cognitive Consistency: A Sourcebook. Chicago: Rand-McNally.Google Scholar

  • Abramowitz, Alan I., and Steven Webster. 2016. “The Rise of Negative Partisanship and the Nationalization of US Elections in the 21st Century.” Electoral Studies 41: 12–22.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Achen, Christopher H. 2002. “Parental Socialization and Rational Party Identification.” Political Behavior 24 (2): 151–170.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Aldrich, J. H. 1995. Why Parties?: The Origin and Transformation of Political Parties in America. : Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar

  • Arceneaux, Kevin, and Martin Johnson. 2013. Changing Minds or Changing Channels: Partisan News in an Age of Choice. Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press.Google Scholar

  • Arceneaux, Kevin, Martin Johnson, and Chad Murphy. 2012. “Polarized Political Communication, Oppositional Media Hostility, and Selective Exposure.” Journal of Politics 74 (1): 174–186.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Arceneaux, Kevin, and Ryan J. Vander Wielen. 2017. Taming Intuition: How Reflection Minimizes Partisan Reasoning and Promotes Democratic Accountability. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Bankert, Alexa, Leonie Huddy, and Martin Rosema. 2017. “Measuring Partisanship as a Social Identity in Multi-Party Systems.” Political Behavior 39 (1): 103–132.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Bartels, Larry M. 2002. “Beyond the Running Tally: Partisan Bias in Political Perceptions.” Political Behavior 24 (2): 117–150.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Bolsen, Toby, James N. Druckman, and Fay Lomax Cook. 2014. “The Influence of Partisan Motivated Reasoning on Public Opinion.” Political Behavior 36 (2): 235–262.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Campbell, Angus, Philip E. Converse, William E. Miller, and Donald E. Stokes. 1960. The American Voter. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar

  • Cvencek, Dario, Anthony G. Greenwald, and Andrew N. Meltzoff. 2012. “Balanced Identity Theory: Evidence for Implicit Consistency in Social Cognition.” In Cognitive Consistency: A Fundamental Principle in Social Cognition, edited by Bertram Gawronski and Fritz Strack, 157–177. New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar

  • Deichert, Maggie A. 2018a. “Content and Consequences of Partisan Cultural Stereotypes.” Working Paper.Google Scholar

  • Deichert, Maggie A. 2018b. “He Looks Like a Democrat: Partisan Visual Categorization and Its Effect on Impression Formation.” Working Paper.Google Scholar

  • Deichert, Maggie A. 2018c. “Politics All Around: Partisan Cultural Stereotypes and Partisan Affect.” Working Paper.Google Scholar

  • Deichert, Maggie A., Stephen A. Goggin, and Alexander G. Theodoridis. 2018. “The Primacy of Partyism? Quantifying the Dimensions of Discrimination.” Working Paper.Google Scholar

  • Downs, A. 1957. An Economic Theory of Democracy. New York: HarperCollins.Google Scholar

  • Duran, Nicholas D., Stephen P. Nicholson, and Rick Dale. 2017. “The Hidden Appeal and Aversion to Political Conspiracies as Revealed in the Response Dynamics of Partisans.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 73: 268–278.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Edwards-Levy, Ariel. 2018. “Republican Confidence in the FBI has Dropped Since 2015.” URL: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/republican-confidence-in-the-fbi-has-dropped-since-2015_us_5a721bbbe4b09a544b5616a7.

  • Fernandez-Vazquez, Pablo, and Alexander G. Theodoridis. 2018. “Believe It or Not? The Credibility of Campaign Promises.” Working Paper.Google Scholar

  • Festinger, L. 1957. A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Fiorina, Morris P. 1981. Retrospective Voting in American National Elections. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar

  • Fischle, M. 2000. “Mass Response to the Lewinsky Scandal: Motivated Reasoning or Bayesian Updating?” Political Psychology 21 (1): 135–159.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Gaines, B. J., J. H. Kuklinski, P. J. Quirk, B. Peyton, and J. Verkuilen. 2007. “Same Facts, Different Interpretations: Partisan Motivation and Opinion on Iraq.” Journal of Politics 69 (4): 957–974.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Gallup Organization. 1949. “USGALLUP.082249.R15C [survey question].” Gallup Organization [producer]. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY: Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, iPOLL [distributor].Google Scholar

  • Gerber, A., and D. P. Green. 1998. “Rational Learning and Partisan Attitudes.” American Journal of Political Science 42 (3): 794–818.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Gerber, A., and D. Green. 1999. “Misperceptions About Perceptual Bias.” Annual Review of Political Science 2 (1): 189–210.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Goggin, Stephen N., and Alexander G. Theodoridis. 2017. “Disputed Ownership: Parties, Issues, and Traits in the Minds of Voters.” Political Behavior 39 (3): 675–702.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Goggin, Stephen Nicholas. 2016. “Personal Politicians: Biography and its Role in the Minds of Voters.” PhD thesis University of California, Berkeley.Google Scholar

  • Green, Donald P., Bradley Palmquist, and Eric Schickler. 2002. Partisan Hearts and Minds: Political Parties and the Social Identities of Voters. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar

  • Greene, Steven. 1999. “Understanding Party Identification: A Social Identity Approach.” Political Psychology 20 (2): 393–403.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Greene, Steven. 2000. “The Psychological Sources of Partisan-leaning Independence.” American Politics Quarterly 28 (4): 511–537.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Greene, Steven. 2004. “Social Identity Theory and Party Identification.” Social Science Quarterly 85 (1): 136–153.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Haider-Markel, D., and M. Joslyn. 2009. “A Partisan Education? How Education Extends Partisan Divisions over Facts.” URL: http://www.psocommons.org/resources/2.

  • Hastorf, Albert H., and Hadley Cantril. 1954. “They Saw a Game; a Case Study.” The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 49 (1): 129–134.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Heider, F. 1958. The Psychology of Interpersonal Relations. New York: John Wiley and Sons.Google Scholar

  • Henderson, John A., and Alexander G. Theodoridis. 2018. “Seeing Spots: Partisanship, Negativity and the Conditional Receipt of Campaign Advertisements.” Political Behavior 1–23.Google Scholar

  • Hetherington, Marc J., and Jonathan D. Weiler. 2009. Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Hetherington, Marc J., and Jonathan D. Weiler. 2018. Prius or Pickup?: How the Answers to Four Simple Questions Explain America’s Great Divide. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.Google Scholar

  • Hetherington, Marc J., and Thomas J. Rudolph. 2015. Why Washington Won’t Work: Polarization, Political Trust, and the Governing Crisis. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar

  • Huber, Gregory A., and Neil Malhotra. 2017. “Political Homophily in Social Relationships: Evidence from Online Dating Behavior.” The Journal of Politics 79 (1): 269–283.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Huddy, Leonie, Lilliana Mason, and Lene Aarøe. 2015. “Expressive Partisanship: Campaign Involvement, Political Emotion, and Partisan Identity.” American Political Science Review 109 (1): 1–17.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Iyengar, Shanto, and Sean J. Westwood. 2015. “Fear and Loathing Across Party Lines: New Evidence on Group Polarization.” American Journal of Political Science 59 (3): 690–707.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Iyengar, Shanto, Gaurav Sood, and Yphtach Lelkes. 2012. “Affect, Not Ideology: A Social Identity Perspective on Polarization.” Public Opinion Quarterly 76 (3): 405–431.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Jerit, Jennifer, and Jason Barabas. 2012. “Partisan Perceptual Bias and the Information Environment.” The Journal of Politics 74 (3): 672–684.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Kahneman, Daniel. 2011. Thinking, Fast and Slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.Google Scholar

  • Kenski, K., and N. J. Stroud. 2005. “Who Watches Presidential Debates? A Comparative Analysis of Presidential Debate Viewing in 2000 and 2004.” American Behavioral Scientist 49 (2): 213.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Kiley, Jocelyn. 2017. “U.S. Public Sees Russian Role in Campaign Hacking, but is Divided over New Sanctions.” Washington, DC: Pew Research Center. URL: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/01/10/u-s-public-says-russia-hacked-campaign/.

  • Klar, Samara, Yanna Krupnikov, and John Barry Ryan. Forthcoming. “Affective Polarization or Partisan Disdain? Untangling a Dislike for the Opposing Party from a Dislike of Partisanship.” Public Opinion Quarterly.Google Scholar

  • Kraus, S. 1962. The Great Debates: Background-Perspective-Effects. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar

  • Kunda, Ziva. 1990. “The Case for Motivated Reasoning.” Psychological Bulletin 108 (3): 480.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Kundra, Ziva, and Lisa Sinclair. 1999. “Motivated Reasoning with Stereotypes: Activation, Application, and Inhibition.” Psychological Inquiry 10 (1): 12–22.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Lebo, M. J., and D. Cassino. 2007. “The Aggregated Consequences of Motivated Reasoning and the Dynamics of Partisan Presidential Approval.” Political Psychology 28 (6): 719–746.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Levendusky, Matthew S. 2018. “Americans, Not Partisans: Can Priming American National Identity Reduce Affective Polarization?” The Journal of Politics 80 (1): 59–70.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Martherus, James, Andres G. Martinez, Paul K. Piff, and Alexander G. Theodoridis. 2018. “Party Animals: Affective Polarization and Dehumanization.” Working Paper.Google Scholar

  • Mason, Lilliana. 2016. “A Cross-Cutting Calm: How Social Sorting Drives Affective Polarization.” Public Opinion Quarterly 80 (1): 351–377.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Mason, Lilliana. 2018. Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar

  • McConnell, Christopher, Neil Malhotra, Yotam Margalit, and Matthew Levendusky. 2018. “The Economic Consequences of Partisanship in a Polarized Era.” American Journal of Political Science 62 (1): 5–18.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Michelitch, Kristin G., and Stephen M. Utych. 2018. “Does Increased Mobilization and Descriptive Representation Intensify Partisanship Over Election Campaigns? Evidence from 3 US Elections.” Working Paper.Google Scholar

  • NBC News/Wall Street Journal. 2018. “Survey Study 18164.” URL: https://www.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/18164WSJNBCpollsecondrelease.pdf.

  • Nicholson, Stephen P. 2012. “Polarizing Cues.” American Journal of Political Science 56 (1): 52–66.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Nicholson, Stephen P., Chelsea M. Coe, Jason Emory, and Anna V. Song. 2016. “The Politics of Beauty: The Effects of Partisan Bias on Physical Attractiveness.” Political Behavior 38 (4): 883–898.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Osgood, C. E., and P. H. Tannenbaum. 1955. “The Principle of Congruity in the Prediction of Attitude Change.” Psychological Review 62 (1): 42.Google Scholar

  • Pew Research Center. 2016. “Partisanship and Political Animosity in 2016.” Washington, DC: Pew Research Center. URL: http://www.people-press.org/2016/06/22/partisanship-and-political-animosity-in-2016/.

  • Pew Research Center. 2017. “Views of the Job Situation Improve Sharply, but Many Still Say They’re Falling Behind Financially.” Washington, DC: Pew Research Center. URL: http://www.people-press.org/2017/11/07/views-of-job-situation-improve-sharply-but-many-still-say-theyre-falling-behind-financially/.

  • Redlawsk, David P. 2002. “Hot Cognition or Cool Consideration? Testing the Effects of Motivated Reasoning on Political Decision Making.” The Journal of Politics 64 (4): 1021–1044.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Schwartz, T. 1989. “Why Parties?” Research memorandum, Department of Political Science, University of California, Los Angeles.Google Scholar

  • Sherman, David K., and Geoffrey L. Cohen. 2006. “The Psychology of Self-Defense: Self-Affirmation Theory.” Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 38: 183–242.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Sigelman, Lee, and Carol K. Sigelman. 1984. “Judgments of the Carter-Reagan Debate: The Eyes of the Beholders.” Public Opinion Quarterly 48 (3): 624–628.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Stroud, Natalie J. 2008. “Media Use and Political Predispositions: Revisiting the Concept of Selective Exposure.” Political Behavior 30 (3): 341–366.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Stroud, Natalie Jomini. 2011. Niche News: The Politics of News Choice. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Taber, C. S., and M. Lodge. 2006. “Motivated Skepticism in the Evaluation of Political Beliefs.” American Journal of Political Science 50 (3): 755–769.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Tajfel, H., and J. Turner. 2001. “An Integrative Theory of Intergroup Conflict.” In Key Readings in Social Psychology. Intergroup relations: Essential readings, edited by M. A. Hogg and D. Abrams, 94–109. New York, NY, USA: Psychology Press.Google Scholar

  • Tesser, Abraham. 2000. “On the Confluence of Self-Esteem Maintenance Mechanisms.” Personality and Social Psychology Review 4 (4): 290–299.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Theodoridis, Alexander George. 2012. “Party Identity in Political Cognition.” PhD thesis, University of California, Berkeley.Google Scholar

  • Theodoridis, Alexander George. 2013. “Implicit Political Identity.” PS: Political Science & Politics 46 (03): 545–549.Google Scholar

  • Theodoridis, Alexander G. 2017. “Me, Myself, and (I), (D), or (R)? Partisanship and Political Cognition Through the Lens of Implicit Identity.” The Journal of Politics 79 (4): 1253–1267.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Theodoridis, Alexander G., and Carlee B. Hawkins. 2017. “Not My Kind of Party? Negational Party Identity and Political Behavior.” Working Paper.Google Scholar

  • Theodoridis, Alexander G., and Stephen N. Goggin. 2018. “Losing Control (of the party): Conjectural Bias in Survey Experiments.” Working Paper.Google Scholar

  • Theodoridis, Alexander G., Kayla S. Canelo, Chelsea M. Coe, Stephen A. Goggin, and John A. Henderson. 2018. “The Intensity Gap: Asymmetric Partisans Behavior.” Working Paper.Google Scholar

  • Thibodeau, Ruth, and Elliot Aronson. 1992. “Taking a Closer Look: Reasserting the Role of the Self-Concept in Dissonance Theory.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 18 (5): 591–602.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Turner, John C., and Rina S. Onorato. 1999. “Social Identity, Personality, and the Self-Concept: A Self-Categorization Perspective.” In The Psychology of the Social Self, edited by Tom R. Tyler, Roderick M. Kramer and Oliver P. John, 11–46. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.Google Scholar

  • Zaller, John R. 1992. The Nature and Origin of Mass Opinion. Cambridge, New York, Oakleigh: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Zechman, Martin J. 1979. “Dynamic Models of the Voter’s Decision Calculus: Incorporating Retrospective Considerations into Rational-Choice Models of Individual Voting Behavior.” Public Choice 34 (3): 297–315.Google Scholar

About the article

Corresponding author: Alexander G. Theodoridis, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of California, Merced, Merced, CA, USA

Published Online: 2018-06-09

Citation Information: The Forum, Volume 16, Issue 1, Pages 81–95, ISSN (Online) 1540-8884, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/for-2018-0006.

Export Citation

©2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.Get Permission

Citing Articles

Here you can find all Crossref-listed publications in which this article is cited. If you would like to receive automatic email messages as soon as this article is cited in other publications, simply activate the “Citation Alert” on the top of this page.

Stephen N. Goggin, John A. Henderson, and Alexander G. Theodoridis
Political Behavior, 2019

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in