The American public remains largely moderate on many issues, but incivility and hostility are rife in American politics. In this paper, I argue that the alignment of multiple issue attitudes along the traditional ideological spectrum helps explain the asymmetrical rise in negative political affect. I introduce belief congruence theory as a supplemental theoretical framework to social identity theory. Cross-sectional data reveal a significant association between issue alignment and negative out-party affect that is neither mediated nor moderated by partisan identity. A first-difference approach using two panel studies then addresses potential heterogeneity bias by testing a change-on-change model within individuals. Both panels, which are from different time periods, covering different issues, reveal significant associations between issue alignment and outgroup dislike. In contrast, partisan identity was only significantly associated with ingroup affect. This work suggests that cross-cutting issue preferences could help attenuate political hostility and reiterate the need to reconsider the role of issue-based reasoning in polarized America.
Political Behavior – Springer Journals
Published: Nov 11, 2016
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