Affective Polarization in Political and Nonpolitical Settings

Thomas J. Rudolph, Marc J. Hetherington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We seek to understand the extent to which affective polarization is driven by in-group love or out-group hate and whether it varies across context. The answer may, in turn, allow us to evaluate how well the fundamental premises of social identity theory mesh with different manifestations of affective polarization. Using an experiment to analyze partisans' trust judgments, we find that the amount of affective polarization and the dominant mechanism underlying it varies by context - whether political or nonpolitical. We find that affective polarization is nearly twice as strong in political settings as in nonpolitical settings. In addition, although affective polarization reflects a blend of both in-party love and out-party hate in both contexts, we find that in-party love is the more dominant source of polarization in nonpolitical settings while out-party hate is the more dominant source in political settings. The latter finding causes us to question how well-suited social identity theory is for understanding polarization in the political sphere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberedaa040
Pages (from-to)591-606
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Public Opinion Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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