The Polarization of Contemporary American Politics
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Political elites of the United States are deeply polarized. Polarization of the Democratic and Republican Parties is higher than at any time since the end of the Civil War. This essay describes how the modern polarization trend emerged and its implications for mass political behavior and public policy outcomes. We contend that contemporary political polarization must be understood in terms of both the ideological divergence of the parties and the expansion of the liberal–conservative dimension of conflict to a wider set of social and cultural conflicts in American society. We close with the speculation that the Republican Party has become the more fractured of the parties along the liberal–conservative dimension at both the elite and mass level.