Political Considerations in Nonpolitical Decisions: A Conjoint Analysis of Roommate Choice

  • Richard M. ShafranekEmail author
Original Paper


Research shows the increasing tendency of partisan considerations to influence decisions outside the context of politics, including residential choice. Scholars attribute this tendency to affective distaste for members of the other party. However, little work has investigated the relative influence of political and nonpolitical factors in these situations—and it has not sufficiently ruled out alternative explanations for these phenomena. Do people mainly choose to socially avoid members of the other party for political reasons, or is partisanship simply perceived to be correlated with relevant nonpolitical considerations? In some settings, political affiliation may serve primarily as a cue for other factors. As a result, studies that manipulate partisanship but fail to include other individuating information may exaggerate partisanship’s importance in these decisions. To address this shortcoming, I assess the impact of political and nonpolitical considerations on roommate selection via conjoint analysis. I find that partisanship strongly influences this social decision even in the presence of nonpolitical-but-politically-correlated individuating information. Partisan preferences are also moderated by roommates’ perceived levels of political interest. Finally, other social traits do matter, but how they matter depends on partisanship. Specifically, partisans report increased willingness to live with counter-stereotypic out-partisans. This suggests that partisan social divides may be more easily bridged by individuals with cross-cutting identities.


Partisanship Affective polarization Homophily Conjoint 



I thank John Bullock, Jamie Druckman, Laurel Harbridge-Yong, Chris Karpowitz, Teppei Yamamoto, members of the Druckman political science research lab, and three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and advice. This research was approved by the Institutional Review Board at Northwestern University. Data and replication code for the analyses presented in this paper can be accessed at

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

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