Losing Common Ground: Social Sorting and Polarization

Lilliana Mason 1
  • 1 University of Maryland, 3140 Tydings Hall, College Park, MD 20742, USA
Lilliana Mason


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.

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