Saturday, November 3, 2018

Moral Polarization and Out-party Hate in the US Political Context

Tappin, Ben M., and Ryan McKay. 2018. “Moral Polarization and Out-party Hate in the US Political Context.” PsyArXiv. November 2. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Affective polarization describes the phenomenon whereby people identifying as Republican or Democrat tend to view opposing partisans negatively and co-partisans positively. Though extensively studied, there remain important gaps in scholarly understanding of affective polarization. In particular, (i) how it relates to the distinct behavioural phenomena of in-party “love” vs. out-party “hate”; and (ii) to what extent it reflects a generalized evaluative disparity between partisans vs. a domain-specific disparity in evaluation. Here, we report the results of an investigation that bears on both of these questions. Specifically, drawing on recent theoretical and empirical trends in political science and psychology, we hypothesize that moral polarization—the tendency to view opposing partisans’ moral character negatively, and co-partisans’ moral character positively—is associated with behavioural expressions of out-party hate. We test this hypothesis in two preregistered studies comprising behavioural measures and large convenience samples of US partisans (total N=1354). Our results strike an optimistic chord: Taken together, they suggest that the hypothesized association is probably small and somewhat tenuous. Though moral polarization per se was large—likely exceeding prior estimates of generalized affective polarization—even the most morally polarized partisans appeared reluctant to engage in a mild form of out-party hate behaviour. These findings converge with recent evidence that polarization—moral or otherwise—has yet to translate into the average US partisan wanting to actively harm their out-party counterparts.

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