Political Behavior

, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 103–132 | Cite as

Measuring Partisanship as a Social Identity in Multi-Party Systems

  • Alexa BankertEmail author
  • Leonie Huddy
  • Martin Rosema
Original Paper


There is no doubt that partisanship is a powerful influence on democratic political behavior. But there is also a lively debate on its nature and origins: Is it largely instrumental in nature and shaped by party performance and issues stances? Or is it basically a long-standing expressive identity reinforced by motivated reasoning and strong emotions? We assess the nature of partisanship in the European context, examining the measurement properties and predictive validity of a multi-item partisan identity scale included in national surveys conducted in the Netherlands, Sweden, and the U.K. Using a latent variable model, we show that an eight-item partisan identity scale provides greater information about partisan intensity than a standard single-item and has the same measurement properties across the three countries. In addition, the identity scale better predicts in-party voting and political participation than a measure of ideological intensity (based on both left–right self-placement and agreement with the party on key issues), providing support for an expressive approach to partisanship in several European democracies.


Partisanship Political participation Social identity Latent trait Scale measurement 



We wish to thank the directors of the LISS, Swedish Citizen Panel, and the British Election Study for the opportunity to include items in their ongoing surveys. We also wish to thank Stanley Feldman, Jacob Sohlberg, Yanna Krupnikov, Patrick Kraft, Michelle Torres, and a number of other colleagues who provided comments and helpful insight on the project. The survey data used in this paper as well as the replication files are available at the journal’s page on Dataverse: (

Supplementary material

11109_2016_9349_MOESM1_ESM.docx (544 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 544 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political Science, School of Public and International AffairsUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceStony Brook UniversityStony BrookUSA
  3. 3.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of TwenteEnschedeThe Netherlands

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