Most partisans treat politics like sports rivalries, instead of focusing on issues

Most partisans—average Democratic and Republican voters—act like fans in sports rivalries instead of making political choices based on issues, according to a new study with a University of Kansas researcher as the lead author.

"What is the consequence of today's polarized politics? What's motivating partisans to vote in this climate?" said Patrick Miller, a University of Kansas assistant professor of . "For too many of them, it's not high-minded, good-government, issue-based goals. It's, 'I hate the other party. I'm going to go out, and we're going to beat them.' That's troubling."

Miller and Pamela Johnston Conover, a distinguished professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, are co-authors of the study "Red and Blue States of Mind: Partisan Hostility and Voting in the United States," published recently in the journal Political Research Quarterly.

The researchers analyzed the attitudes of voters nationwide in survey data from the 2010 Cooperative Congressional Election Study. They found that many average voters with strong party commitments—both Democrats and Republicans—care more about their parties simply winning the election than they do either ideology or issues. Unlike previous research, the study found that loyalty to the party itself was the source of partisan rivalry and incivility, instead of a fundamental disagreement over issues.

The survey showed that 41 percent of partisans agreed that simply winning elections is more important to them than policy or ideological goals, while just 35 percent agreed that policy is a more important motivator for them to participate in politics. Only 24 percent valued both equally or expressed no opinion.

When it came to uncivil attitudes, 38 percent of partisans agreed that their parties should use any tactics necessary to "win elections and issue debates." When those who agreed with this view were asked what tactics they had in mind, the most common ones they offered were: voter suppression, stealing or cheating in elections, physical violence and threats against the other party, lying, personal attacks on opponents, not allowing the other party to speak, and using the filibuster to gridlock Congress. Democrats and Republicans were equally likely to express this opinion.

"This is the first research to show that strong partisans who are motivated by partisan conflict are endorsing uncivil attitudes about the political process," Miller said. "This comes to an important point. If our politicians are polarized and uncivil, maybe it's because many voters are polarized and uncivil."

The researchers found that these partisan dynamics are most intense when voters experience competitive elections. While most people believe closely contested elections bring healthy discussions about candidates and issues, the showed the opposite, Miller said.

"Competitive elections are making you hate the other party more. They're having a 180-degree opposite effect from what we think they should," he said. "Instead of bringing us together to talk and deliberate, they're making us hateful people who are disengaged from our fellow citizens."

Miller said the study likely reflects change in the political process in the past 25 years. Other research has shown that individuals seem to insulate themselves more and more within their own party. For example, partisans increasingly consume only media content that reinforces either conservative or liberal ideas. With less knowledge of the other side's real position on issues, it helps foster hostility between the parties.

It also seems to be feeding fierce partisanship in Congress and other aspects of the American political process, he said.

"We're not thinking about politics in the way that most Founders wanted, which is to think about issues, be open to compromise, and not be attached to parties. We're looking at politics through a simplistic partisan view in which we think our side is good and their side is bad," Miller said.

The danger stems in that the political climate—with less-informed voters on issues who tend to blindly support their own party—does not foster a culture that punishes ineffective incumbents on both sides who might have supported failed policies while in office or be tied to scandals.

"If all I care about is the game and my side winning, then what happens between games? I am not paying much attention to policy after the election. I'm only tuning back in at game time to find out who my team is fielding in the election. Too many partisans are saying, 'my side is good; the other side is evil. We have to go beat them,'" Miller said. "They're our rivals, like Kansas or Missouri, Duke or North Carolina. And that sense of animosity and demonization is really motivating average partisans to participate in politics, much more so than issues or ideology."

This likely fans the flames of partisanship in Congress, he said.

"If politicians in Congress are uncivil, not compromising and misbehaving, they're partly giving us what we want, especially primary voters, those most committed partisans," Miller said. "We as citizens bear huge responsibility for what's happening. We enable dysfunction in Washington, whether we realize it or not."

Miller and Conover, who study political partisanship, published an earlier study that found women were more likely than men to seek out compromise in partisan political fights.

"If you want politics to change, you need brave politicians of both parties to convince the average partisan that just because you may disagree with those other people, that doesn't mean the other side is evil and that you're not necessarily morally superior," Miller said. "You're no more or less American than they are. And maybe, you don't have to hate each other to disagree. But that's a very unpalatable argument to a lot of average people."


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Apr 15, 2015
Truly sad, this is why the country is in the state that it finds itself presently. Higher debt, crap dollar value, less liberty, more folks on food stamps, constant war, expanding police state, the corruption. One hopes that some day people start examining the candidates, the issues, the history and understands why nothing is changing for the better. We are allowing the money and the media to select our "team" Captains and they almost always end up looking a lot alike when you dig past the surface that is shown to you...

Apr 15, 2015
To socialists, politics is life and death, which is why they will lie, cheat, steal and murder to acquire and keep power.
'the other side is evil "
Socialists ARE demonstrably evil.

Compromise with evil and evil wins.
This is just another piece to attempt to justify the evil of socialism.

Apr 15, 2015
Anyone want to start the Reason Party? There HAS to be a voice for people who refuse to play this game.

Apr 15, 2015
"Clinton embodies all the things Democrats supposedly reject. But she's got money and powerful allies in politics, the media and K Street — and for these reasons, Democratic voters appear ready to settle for her."
"Sen. Clinton, of course, voted for the Iraq war and spoke on the Senate floor in defense of it. But it's not just Iraq. Her entire record is pro-war. Her husband launched wars in Bosnia and Kosovo. When he was getting impeached in 1998, he launched missile attacks on Iraq.

As Obama's Secretary of State, Clinton was one of the three Obama aides most responsible for the illegal pre-emptive war in Libya. "We came, we saw, he died," she gloated after the U.S. helped depose dictator Moammar Qadhafi. "
"Are America's Democrats really ready to put up with four years of war, corporatism and power-hungry secrecy?"
http://www.washin...-oppose/
Anything to keep power.

Apr 15, 2015
"a huge volume of Hillary Clinton's Twitter and Facebook support comes from fake accounts. Some 2 million of her 3.6 million Twitter "followers" are non-responsive accounts that apparently exist only to plump up Clinton's social media profile, and over 544,000 of them are clearly fake. Plus, 46,000 of her Facebook "likes" turned out to be coming from Baghdad, Iraq."
http://www.breitb...t-exist/

cjn
Apr 15, 2015
Maybe, just maybe having a two-party system is the motivating factor. I think most of us find that neither party represents us well, but we're forced to pick between two terrible options halfheartedly supporting a platform that is homogenized across a really diverse set of constituent demographics. Its also worth looking at the viability of a single republican system for a population of 330,000,000. Each of our Federal Representatives is now supposed to represent ~760k citizens -an entirely unrealistic ratio for good governance.

Apr 15, 2015
Each of our Federal Representatives is now supposed to represent ~760k citizens -an entirely unrealistic ratio for good governance.


I support an amendment to increase the size of the House so each Congressman represents no more than 200,000 CITIZENS, and abolish the 17th amendment return election of senators to state legislatures.

The socialists want more illegals to increase the number of people in their districts receives subsidized...everything.
The city of Lynn, MA is forced to accept new, illegal immigrant children into their public schools and forced to provide tutors and aids and 'free' breakfast and 'free' lunch and ....

Apr 15, 2015
Most partisans treat politics like sports rivalries, instead of focusing on issues

Seems plausible. After all the very definition of a partisan is one who cannot see things in a differentiated way. So the by the definition of the word they are unable to comprehend (let alone focus on) the issues.
Most even don't know what the values their party stands for even mean or where they came from (and that includes astonishingly many of the parties' politicians)

Fanbois, the lot of them.

Apr 15, 2015
Most even don't know what the values their party stands

All parties stand for one thing, obtaining and holding power.

Apr 15, 2015
the very definition of a partisan is one who cannot see things in a differentiated way.


What's wrong with a partisan who champions individual liberty and property for all?
Or a partisan who champions a state with only the authority to protect an individual's property rights and can't force you to live the way others think you should live?
How do you differentiate evil?

Apr 16, 2015
"What a fantastic monument to all the best instincts of the human race this country might have been, if we could have kept it out of the hands of greedy little political hustlers." - Hunter S. Thompson, 1972

Apr 17, 2015
Most partisans treat politics like sports rivalries, instead of focusing on issues


I treat politics like it life or death and it is. It is for many many people who get rubbed out by the republican mind-control machine the dumb ass policies and actions the take out on people. Like hit men for corporations. It's like the Neocon @R2 says; Socialists ARE demonstrably evil. So let me demonstrate that for him...

Apr 18, 2015
"What a fantastic monument to all the best instincts of the human race this country might have been, if we could have kept it out of the hands of greedy little political hustlers." - Hunter S. Thompson, 1972


Was he talking about the socialists like George McGovern?

Apr 22, 2015
This is why we should replace party primaries with a single non-partisan primary that uses approval voting (voting for all the candidates you like). The two candidates with the highest approval rating would move on to the general election. If we did this, the function of political parties would change from one of nomination to one of endorsement and they would become more like advocacy groups. You could have a party endorsing multiple candidates and a candidate being endorsed by multiple parties.

The introduction of smaller parties that only pay attention to one or two issues and aren't necessarily competitive with most other parties could help us shift away from the tribal elements and help focus on the issues themselves.

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