The President, Polarization and the Party Platforms, 1944–2012

Soren Jordan 1 , Clayton McLaughlin Webb 1 , and B. Dan Wood 1
  • 1 Department of Political Science, Texas A&M University, 4348 TAMU College Station, TX 77843-4348, USA
Soren Jordan
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  • Soren Jordan is a PhD Candidate at Texas A&M University. He specializes in American politics and Methodology. His dissertation examines the consequences of mass and elite polarization for the lawmaking process in the US Congress.
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, Clayton McLaughlin Webb
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  • Clayton McLaughlin Webb is a PhD Candidate at Texas A&M University. He specializes in International Relations and Methodology. His dissertation looks at the domestic political and economic consequences of US economic sanctions.
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and B. Dan Wood
  • Corresponding author
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  • B. Dan Wood is a Professor and Cornerstone Fellow in the Department of Political Science at Texas A&M University. His research focuses on the concept of democratic responsiveness of American political institutions, especially the presidency. His most recent publications include two books with Cambridge University Press entitled Presidential Saber Rattling: Causes and Consequences (2012) and The Myth of Presidential Representation (recipient of the 2010 Richard Neustadt Award). His current research evaluates the causes and consequences of party polarization in the American system.
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Abstract

Scholars generally agree that political elites in the US are polarized. Yet most of our evidence, especially longitudinal evidence, is built on proxy measures of elite ideology that fail to identify the unique dimensions that drive the cleavages between the parties. And our understanding of when elite polarization reemerged is also unclear. This study leverages the party platforms, along with the tools of content analysis, to shed new light on elite polarization. We find that, consistent with the literature, elite polarization is an asymmetric phenomenon driven by Republicans primarily motivated by economic issues. Further, we show that modern elite polarization emerged starting with the 1980 election.

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