Fear and Loathing Across Party Lines: New Evidence on Group Polarization
With Shanto Iyengar
Abstract: When defined in terms of social identity and affect toward in- and out-groups, the polarization of the American electorate has clearly increased. We document the scope and consequences of affective polarization using implicit, explicit, and behavioral indicators. Our evidence demonstrates not only that hostile feelings for the out-party are ingrained or automatic in voters’ psyches, but also that affective polarization based on party surpasses polarization based on race and other social cleavages. After documenting the extent of implicit party polarization, we show that party cues exert powerful effects on non-political judgments and behaviors. Partisans discriminate against out partisans, and do so to a degree that exceeds discrimination based on race. In concluding, we note that heightened partisan affect and the intrusion of partisan bias into non-political domains means that American parties now resemble the model of the "mass membership" party.
Friends that Matter: How Social Distance Affects Selection and Evaluation of Content in Social Media
With Solomon Messing - Under Review
Abstract: As Americans shift from habituating particular news outlets to casually browsing social me- dia, they empower their friends and acquaintances to regulate their information environment. This means that interpersonal relationships and social cues, in the form of endorsements by individual contacts or groups, affect the content that individuals select and how they process it. Though every relationship is unique and multifacted, each can be characterized along a single important dimension—social distance, comprised of the related phenomena of frequent contact, tie strength, social similarity and social group membership. We document the ef- fects of social distance on selectivity and content evaluation in two experimental studies. The first study, conducted in an experimentally controlled Facebook application, operationalizes social distance as frequent contact and measures its effect on news story selection. Our sec- ond experiment shows how ethnic and socio-economic group membership affects consumers’ decisions to read content, and demonstrates how consumers differentially process the same content depending on their social distance to the recommender, which we show affects sub- sequently measured political preferences on related issues. Our results have implications for our understanding of selective exposure, consumption, and other media effects in social media.