Original Paper

Political Behavior

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 225-246

First online:

Polarization and Issue Consistency Over Time

  • Andrew GarnerAffiliated withUniversity of Wyoming Email author 
  • , Harvey PalmerAffiliated withUniversity at Buffalo, SUNY

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The polarization of the political and social environment over the past four decades has provided citizens with clearer cues about how their core political predispositions (e.g., group interests, core values, and party identification) relate to their issue opinions. A robust and ongoing scholarly debate has involved the different ways in which the more polarized environment affects mass opinion. Using heteroskedastic regression, this paper examines the effect of the increasingly polarized environment on the variability of citizens’ policy opinions. We find that citizens today base their policy preferences more closely upon their core political predispositions than in the past. In addition, the predicted error variances also allow us to directly compare two types of mass polarization—issue distance versus issue consistency—to determine the independent effects each has on changes in the distribution of mass opinion.


Polarization Partisan Sorting Attitude consistency Heteroskedastic regression Uncertainty