Political Behavior

, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 485–508 | Cite as

How Ideology Fuels Affective Polarization

  • Jon C. RogowskiEmail author
  • Joseph L. Sutherland
Original Paper


Scholars have reached mixed conclusions about the implications of increased political polarization for citizen decision-making. In this paper, we argue that citizens respond to ideological divergence with heightened affective polarization. Using a survey experiment conducted with a nationally representative sample of U.S. citizens, we find that increased ideological differences between political figures produce increasingly polarized affective evaluations, and that these differences are especially large among respondents with stronger ideological commitments and higher levels of political interest. We provide further support for these findings in an observational study of citizens’ evaluations of the U.S. Senators from their state. We also find that the polarizing effects of ideological differences can be largely mitigated with biographical information about the public officials, which suggests that the pernicious consequences of ideological polarization can be overcome by focusing on matters other than political disagreement.


Polarization Ideology Electoral competition Affect 



We thank the Time-Sharing Experiments in the Social Sciences and the co-PIs, Jeremy Freese and Penny Visser, for funding the survey experiment component of this project. We also thank Betsy Sinclair and two anonymous TESS reviewers for their suggestions and feedback in designing the experiment. Finally, we are grateful to the Editor and three anonymous reviewers for insightful comments and criticisms on earlier versions of the manuscript. The data and replication files for this study can be accessed via the Political Behavior Dataverse at

Supplementary material

11109_2015_9323_MOESM1_ESM.docx (31 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 30 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceWashington University in St. LouisSt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

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