Measuring Public Preferential Polarization
We adapt an axiomatically derived measure of polarization due to Esteban and Ray (1994) to measure polarization of political preferences. Previous work used different measures such as variance, kurtosis, Cronbach's alpha, median distance to median and the mean distance between groups. Yet, none of these measures are theoretically connected to a notion of polarization. Although the initiation of the current one is in the lieu of income inequality measurement, it is conceptually suitable for preferential polarization as well. This paper offers a methodology for that purpose. The second contribution of the paper is that we use the Aldrich-McKelvey Scaling to correct for differential-item functioning in estimating ideal points of the individuals. We use the American National Election Survey Data for years between 1984-2008 to implement the theory offered in the paper. Our findings suggest that there is not a statistically significant increasing trend in polarization in this time period in many issue dimensions but there is an upward trend in the latent ideology dimension which is significant during the 1990s.
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