Reframing polarization: Social groups and culture wars

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8 Scopus citations


Recent analyses of American politics often invoke the term culture war depicting sharp and increasing divisions within the American polity. Most of this research defines culture in terms of values and beliefs about social issues and defines polarization in terms of partisan and issue divisions. I evaluate the claim of worsening culture wars by using a conceptualization of political culture that focuses on social groups and measuring polarization as both social group members' attitudes toward their own social in-groups and out-groups, and the effects of group attitudes on partisanship. Analyzing inter-group attitudes from 1964 to 2012 for social group cleavages defined by race, class, age, sex, and religion shows that polarization in attitudes toward social groups is minimal and generally stable, and most group members feel positively toward out-groups. Partisan and issue polarization seen in prior research do not extend to deep or increasing inter-group hostility that could reinforce issue-based and partisan polarization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)432-442
Number of pages11
JournalPS - Political Science and Politics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2014


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