Party Polarization and Mass Partisanship:
A Comparative Perspective
Received: 6 June 2013 / Accepted: 27 May 2014 / Published online: 12 June 2014
Ó Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014
Abstract Scholars view polarization with trepidation. But polarization may clarify
voters’ choices and generate stronger party attachments. The link between party
polarization and mass partisanship remains unclear. I look to theories of partisanship
to derive implications about the relationships among polarization, citizens’ per-
ceptions of polarization, and mass partisanship. I test those implications using cross-
national and longitudinal survey data. My results conﬁrm that polarization corre-
lates with individual partisanship across space and time. Citizens in polarized
systems also perceive their parties to be more polarized. And perceiving party
polarization makes people more likely to be partisan. That relationship appears to be
causal: using a long-term panel survey from the United States, I ﬁnd that citizens
become more partisan as they perceive polarization increasing.
Keywords Party polarization Á Mass partisanship Á CSES Á ANES Á Panel survey
Party polarization poses serious problems for democracy. Studies link the
polarization of the Democratic and Republican Parties in the United States to
legislative gridlock, elite incivility, income inequality, and mass disengagement.
Across a broader range of countries, polarization also contributes to democratic
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11109-014-9279-z)
contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
N. Lupu (&)
Department of Political Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 110 North Hall, 1050 Bascom
Mall, Madison, WI 53706, USA
For reviews of this research, see Fiorina and Abrams (2008), Hetherington (2009), and Layman et al.
Polit Behav (2015) 37:331–356