Advertisement

Political Behavior

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 225–246 | Cite as

Polarization and Issue Consistency Over Time

  • Andrew Garner
  • Harvey Palmer
Original Paper

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Polarization Partisan Sorting Attitude consistency Heteroskedastic regression Uncertainty 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank John Bruce and Bob Brown for helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper as well as the helpful comments of the anonymous reviewers.

References

  1. Abramowitz, A. I. (2006). Comment: Disconnected or joined at the hip. In P. S. Nivola & D. W. Brady (Eds.), Red and blue Nation? Volume One. Washington D.C.: Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
  2. Abramowitz, A. L., & Saunders, K. L. (2005). Why can’t we all just get along? The reality of polarization in America. The Forum: A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics, 2, 1–22.Google Scholar
  3. Abramowitz, A. L., & Saunders, K. L. (2008). Is polarization a myth? The Journal of Politics, 70, 542–555.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Adams, G. D. (1997). Abortion: Evidence of an issue evolution. American Journal of Political Science, 41, 718–737.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Aldrich, J. H., Berger, M. M., & Rohde, D. W. (2002). The historical variability in conditional party government, 1877–1986. In D. W. Brady & M. D. McCubbins (Eds.), Party, process, and political change in congress, Volume 1: New perspective on the history of congress (Vol. 2, pp. 17–35). Stanford University Press: Stanford.Google Scholar
  6. Althaus, S. L. (1998). Information effects in collective preferences. American Political Science Review, 92, 545–558.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Althaus, S. L. (2003). Collective preferences in democratic politics: Opinion surveys and the will of the people. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Alvarez, R. M. (1997). Information and elections. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  9. Alvarez, R. M., & Brehm, J. (1995). American ambivalence toward abortion policy: A heteroskedastic probit method for assessing conflicting values. American Journal of Political Science, 39, 1055–1082.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Alvarez, R. M., & Brehm, J. (1997). Are Americans ambivalent towards racial politics? American Journal of Political Science, 41, 345–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bafumi, J., & Shapiro, R. Y. (2009). A new partisan voter. The Journal of Politics, 71, 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bartels, L. M. (1996). Uninformed votes: Information effects in presidential elections. American Journal of Political Science, 40, 194–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Berelson, B. R., Lazarsfeld, P. F., & McPhee, W. N. (1954). Voting. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  14. Brewer, M. D. (2005). The rise of partisanship and the expansion of partisan conflict within the American electorate. Political Research Quarterly, 58, 219–229.Google Scholar
  15. Calhoun, Craig. (1988). Populist politics, communications media and large scale societal integration. Sociological Theory, 6, 219–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Campbell, A., Converse, P. E., Miller, W. E., & Stokes, D. E. (1960). The American voter. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  17. Carmines, E. G., & Stimson, J. A. (1980). The two faces of issue voting. American Political Science Review, 74, 78–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Carmines, E. G., & Stimson, J. A. (1986). The structure and sequence of issue evolution. American Political Science Review, 80, 901–920.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Carmines, E. G., & Stimson, J. A. (1989). Issue evolution: Race and the transformation of American politics. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Carsey, T. M., & Layman, G. C. (2006). Changing sides or changing minds? Party identification and policy preferences in the American electorate. American Journal of Political Science, 50, 464–477.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Carson, J. L., Crespin, M. H., Finocchiaro, C. J., & Rohde, D. W. (2007). Redistricting and party polarization in the U.S. house of representatives. American Politics Research, 35, 878–904.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  23. Conover, P. J. (1988). The role of social groups in political thinking. British Journal of Political Science, 18, 51–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Converse, P. E. (1964). The nature of belief systems in mass publics. In D. E. Apter (Ed.), Ideology and discontent (pp. 206–261). New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  25. DiMaggio, P., Evans, J., & Bryson, B. (1996). Have American’s social attitudes become more polarized? American Journal of Sociology, 102, 690–755.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Downs, A. (1957). An economic theory of democracy. New York: Harper.Google Scholar
  27. Evans, J. H., Bryson, B., & DiMaggio, P. (2001). Opinion polarization: Important contributions, necessary limitations. American Journal of Sociology, 106, 944–959.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Fiorina, M. P., Abrams, S. J., & Pope, J. C. (2005). Culture war? The myth of a polarized America. New York: Longman.Google Scholar
  29. Franklin, C. H. (1991). Eschewing obfuscation? Campaign and the perception of U.S. senate incumbents. American Political Science Review, 85, 1193–1214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Frey, W. H. (1995). The new geographic of population shifts: Trend toward balkanization. In R. Farly (Ed.), The state of the Union: America in the 1990’s (Vol. 2, pp. 271–336). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  31. Galston, W. A., & Nivola, P. S. (2006). Delineating the problem. In P. S. Nivola, D. W. Brady (Eds.), Red and Blue Nation? (Vol. 1, pp. 1–48). Baltimore: Brookings Institutional Press.Google Scholar
  32. Green, W. H. (1993). Econometric analysis (2nd ed.). New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  33. Gunther, A. C. (1992). Biased press or biased public? Attitudes toward media coverage of social groups. Public Opinion Quarterly, 56, 147–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Harrison, R. J., & Bennett, C. (1995). Racial and ethnic diversity. In R. Farley (Ed.), State of the Union: America in the 1990’s (Vol. 2, pp. 156–165). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  35. Harvey, A. C. (1976). Estimating regression models with multiplicative heteroscedasticity. Econometrica, 44, 461–465.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Hetherington, M. J. (2001). Resurgent mass partisanship: The role of elite polarization. American Political Science Review, 95, 619–631.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hetherington, M. J. (2009). Putting polarization in perspective. British Journal of Political Science, 39, 413–448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Huckfeld, R., & Sprague, J. (1995). Citizens, politics, and social communication: Information and influence in an election campaign. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Hunter, J. D. (1991). Culture wars: The struggle to define America. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  40. Issacharoff, S. (2002). Gerrymandering and political cartels. Harvard Law Review, 116, 620–630.Google Scholar
  41. Iyengar, S., & Hahn, K. S. (2009). Red media, blue media: Evidence of ideological selectivity in media use. Journal of Communication, 59, 19–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Iyengar, S., & Morin, R. (2006). Mind the gap: Differences in public knowledge about domestic and overseas events. Washington Post, July 5, 2006.Google Scholar
  43. Jacobson, G. C. (2004). The politics of congressional elections (6th ed.). New York: Pearson.Google Scholar
  44. Jacobson, G. C. (2006). Comment: Disconnected or joined at the hip? In P. S. Nivola & D. W. Brady (Eds.). Red and blue Nation? Volume One. Washington D.C.: Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
  45. Keele, L., & Park, D. K. (2006). Difficult choices: An evaluation of heterogenous choice models. Paper presented at the 2004 Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago, IL September 2–5.Google Scholar
  46. Layman, G. C. (2001). The great divide: Religious and cultural conflict in American party politics. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Layman, G. C., & Carsey, T. M. (2002). Party polarization and party structuring of policy attitudes: A comparison of three NES panel studies. Political Behavior, 24, 199–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Layman, G. C., Carsey, T. M., & Horowitz, J. M. (2006). Party polarization in American politics: Characteristics, causes, and consequences. Annual Review of Political Science, 9, 83–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Lazarsfeld, P. F., Berelson, B., & Gaudet, H. (1944). The people’s choice: How the voter makes up his mind in a presidential campaign. New York: Duell, Sloan,and Pearce.Google Scholar
  50. Levendusky, M. (2009). The partisan sort: How liberals became democrats and conservatives became republicans. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  51. Levendusky, M. (2010). Clearer cues, more consistent voters: A benefit of elite polarization. Political Behavior, 32, 111–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Levy, F. (1995). Incomes and income inequality. In R. Farley (Ed.), State of the Union: America in the 1990’s (Vol. 1, pp. 1–58). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  53. Lupia, A. (1994). Shortcuts versus encyclopedias: Information and voting behavior in California insurance reform elections. American Political Science Review, 88, 63–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. McCarty, N., Poole, K. T., & Rosenthal, H. (2006). Polarized America: The dance of ideology and unequal riches. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  55. McCarty, N., Poole, K. T., & Rosenthal, H. (2009). Does gerrymandering cause polarization? American Journal of Political Science, 53, 666–680.Google Scholar
  56. McInturff, B. (2001). One Nation, fairly divisible, under God. Economist, January 20, 2001, p. 22.Google Scholar
  57. Miller, W. E., & Jennings, M. Kent. (1986). Parties in transition: A longitudinal study of party elites and party supporters. New York: Sage.Google Scholar
  58. Mutz, D. C., & Martin, P. S. (2001). Facilitating communication across lines of political difference: The role of mass media. American Political Science Review, 95, 97–114.Google Scholar
  59. Nie, N. H., Verba, S., & Petrocik, J. R. (1976). The changing American voter. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  60. Poole, K. T., & Rosenthal, H. (1997). Congress: A political-economic history of roll call voting. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  61. Popkin, S. L. (1991). The reasoning voter. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  62. Prior, M. (2007). Post-broadcast democracy: How media choice increases inequality in political involvement and polarizes elections. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  63. Rohde, D. W. (1991). Parties and leaders in the postreform house. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  64. Sniderman, P. M., Brody, R. A., & Tetlock, P. (1991). Reasoning and choice: Explorations in political psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Stanley, H. W., Bianco, W. T., & Niemi, R. G. (1986). Partisanship and group support over time: A multivariate analysis. American Political Science Review, 80, 969–976.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Stone, W. J., Rapoport, R. B., & Abramowitz, A. I. (1990). The reagan revolution and party polarization in the 1980s. In L. Sandy Maisel (Ed.), The parties respond. Bould, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  67. Stonecash, J. M., Brewer, M. D., & Mariani, M. D. (2003). Diverging parties: Social change, realignment, and party polarization. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  68. Sunstein, C. (2007). Republic.com 2.0. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  69. White, J. K. (2003). The values divide. New Jersey: Chatham House.Google Scholar
  70. Zaller, J. (1992). The nature and origins of mass opinion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of WyomingLaramieUSA
  2. 2.University at Buffalo, SUNYBuffaloUSA

Personalised recommendations