Affective polarization and the salience of elections

With Eva Anduiza and Guillem Rico

In this paper we analyze the effects of election salience on affective polarization. Campaigns and elections epitomize the moment of maximum political conflict, information spread, mobilization, and activation of political identities and predispositions. We therefore expect that affective polarization will be higher just after an election has taken place. By the same token, as elections lose salience, affective polarization will diminish. We analyze this question using CSES data from 99 post-electoral surveys conducted in 42 countries between 1996 and 2016. Our identification strategy exploits variation in the timing of survey interviews with respect to the election day as an exogenous measure of election salience. The empirical findings indicate that as elections lose salience affective polarization declines. Moreover, this paper contributes to the debate on the origins of affective polarization by exploring two mechanisms that may account for this relationship: changes in the intensity of party identification and ideological polarization.

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