Compassionate Democrats and Tough Republicans: How Ideology Shapes Partisan Stereotypes

  • Scott CliffordEmail author
Original Paper


Trait stereotypes are a fundamental form of social cognition that influence public opinion. A long line of literature has established partisan stereotypes of politicians, but we know less about the source of these stereotypes and whether they apply to partisans in the mass public. Building on moral psychology, I argue that the public holds clear stereotypes about the moral character of mass partisans and that these stereotypes are rooted in ideology. Using a national survey, I show that Democrats and Republicans prioritize different aspects of moral character, but that these differences are more strongly linked to political ideology than partisan identity. Next, I show that much of the public holds trait stereotypes about mass partisans that reflect these differences in trait importance. Finally, I provide experimental evidence that people use partisan cues to draw stereotypical inferences about individuals, but that these inferences are more responsive to ideological information than partisan cues. Overall, the results suggest that partisan stereotypes are not merely outgroup animus, but reflect the values and motivations that differentiate the parties.


Stereotypes Morality Partisanship Ideology Character traits 


Supplementary material

11109_2019_9542_MOESM1_ESM.docx (467 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 466 kb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of HoustonHoustonUSA

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