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Have Americans' Attitudes Become More Polarized? an Update


  • John H. Evans

    (University of California, San Diego)


Objective: I update the analysis of attitudinal polarization originally presented in DiMaggio, Evans and Bryson (DEB) (1996) by using newly available years of survey data. Method: Like DEB, I derive aggregate distributional parameters for social groups in each year of the surveys, and then regress the year of the surveys on each parameter. Results: As in DEB's original paper, there is little evidence of general polarization in attitudes between the early 1970s and today. However, while DEB found some evidence that polarization in the public may be the result of polarization in our political system, with the additional years of data this conclusion is inescapable. Conclusions: While political scientists have recently found polarization among our elected officials on economic issues, it seems clear that members of the public who are involved with politics are becoming polarized on moral issues. Political scientists should follow up on this research to see not only if elected officials are polarized on these issues, but the causal direction of the link between officials and the public.

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  • John H. Evans, 2002. "Have Americans' Attitudes Become More Polarized? an Update," Working Papers 40, Princeton University, School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies..
  • Handle: RePEc:pri:cpanda:24

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hetherington, Marc J., 2001. "Resurgent Mass Partisanship: The Role of Elite Polarization," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 95(3), pages 619-631, September.
    2. Dennis J. Downey & Matt L. Huffman, 2001. "Attitudinal Polarization and Trimodal Distributions: Measurement Problems and Theoretical Implications," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 82(3), pages 494-505, September.
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    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior


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