Partisan Cultural Stereotypes: The Effect of Everyday Partisan Associations on Social Life in the United States
Deichert, Maggie Ann
One of the defining social group cleavages in contemporary America is partisanship. Through the powerful force of group identity, partisanship can influence vote choice, issue positions, and attitudes towards government, politicians, and other partisans in political and apolitical contexts. While previous studies on partisanship demonstrate its extensive effect on both political and apolitical outcomes, little work looks at the content of partisan stereotypes and what type of information can activate partisan identity and discrimination when partisan labels are absent. In this dissertation, I argue that partisan identity and a range of social identities are now so intertwined that people can use the cultural symbols of these partisan coalition social groups, such as wearing camouflage or listening to rap for example, to infer partisan identity. These cultural preferences, like clothing style or music choice, are omnipresent pieces of information that are easily and casually communicated to others or observed simply by looking at someone. Through the political behavior of cultural group leaders and the cultural behavior of politicians, these omnipresent cultural symbols can become politicized signals of partisan identity. As a result, people can and do engage in the partisan categorization of others either through small talk or, in some cases, without strangers even uttering a word, much less sharing an issue position. Furthermore, this partisan categorization has numerous downstream consequences for interpersonal interactions. Through the associative network surrounding partisan identity in long term memory, partisan categorization can activate partisan stereotypes and the affective tags people attach to the two parties. As such, partisan categorization can result in partisan impressions of strangers and expressions of partisan bias and discrimination in daily interaction with others.