Friday, April 15, 2011

Partisanship

Following the previous post, here is a forthcoming paper from Laurel Harbridge and Neil Malhotra(via The Monkey Cage, again), looking at the impact of the perception of "bipartisanship" on approval ratings for two Congressmen. They show that
Independents and weak partisans are more supportive of members that espouse a bipartisan image, whereas strong partisans are less supportive. People with strong attachments to a political party disavow conflict in the aggregate but approve of individual members behaving in a partisan manner.
which is interesting right now: Barack Obama almost endorsed the Simpson-Bowles plan for the budget, which is a centre-right proposal, while Paul Ryan went to the extreme. The main graph is here:
The graph shows that strong partisans are less likely to vote for the same congressman when she is described as a bipartisan person instead of a partisan one.

Interestingly, this would tend to mean that partisanship is kind of self-fulfilling. If we think that a partisan congress polarizes the electorate, this means that the fraction of strong partisans, and this implies that congressmen have an incentive to be more partisan if they want to get reelected. We are in a typical story of "strategic complements" with multiple equilibria, one with strong partisanship and one with weak partisanship.

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