Political Behavior

, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 531–552 | Cite as

Individual Differences in Group Loyalty Predict Partisan Strength

  • Scott CliffordEmail author
Original Paper


The strength of an individual’s identification with their political party is a powerful predictor of their engagement with politics, voting behavior, and polarization. Partisanship is often characterized as primarily a social identity, rather than an expression of instrumental goals. Yet, it is unclear why some people develop strong partisan attachments while others do not. I argue that the moral foundation of Loyalty, which represents an individual difference in the tendency to hold strong group attachments, facilitates stronger partisan identification. Across two samples, including a national panel and a convenience sample, as well as multiple measures of the moral foundations, I demonstrate that the Loyalty foundation is a robust predictor of partisan strength. Moreover, I show that these effects cannot be explained by patriotism, ideological extremity, or directional effects on partisanship. Overall, the results provide further evidence for partisanship as a social identity, as well as insight into the sources of partisan strength.


Partisanship Partisan strength Loyalty Moral foundations 



The author would like to thank Brad Jones and Spencer Piston for helpful comments. Replication materials are available on the Political Behavior Dataverse.

Supplementary material

11109_2016_9367_MOESM1_ESM.docx (49 kb)
Online Appendix (DOCX 48 kb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of HoustonHoustonUSA

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