Forget the Good of the Game: Political Incivility and Lack of Compromise as a Second Layer of Party Polarization

Michael R. Wolf, J. Cherie Strachan, Daniel M. Shea

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    18 Scopus citations


    The growing literature on American party polarization has focused on growing differences in partisan vote outcomes, political values, and policy position. We argue that a second layer of party polarization has developed that goes far beyond simply issue and ideological differences. A growing unwillingness to want politicians to compromise with the other side and a determination to blame growing political incivility solely on the other party characterizes this additional division. This second layer is important to gauge because an electorate with a significant portion of voters deeply separated on policy questions but open to compromise is appreciably different from an electorate deeply divided on policy and unwilling to budge based on policy and emotion. Our findings show that a solid percentage of the electorate holds strong partisan preferences and wants their party leaders to stand firm on principle rather than compromise with the other side. Furthermore, this strong partisan mood is not simply driven by the particular conditions of the 2010 midterm election, such as the Tea Party or in particular regions. Rather, this stark divisive partisan atmosphere existed generally and was not concentrated in electorally competitive areas.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1677-1695
    Number of pages19
    JournalAmerican Behavioral Scientist
    Issue number12
    StatePublished - Dec 2012


    • midterm elections
    • party polarization
    • political civility
    • political compromise


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