Moral grandstanding and political polarization: A multi-study consideration

Grubbs, Joshua B.; Warmke, Brandon; Tosi, Justin; James, A. Shanti
Journal of Research in Personality

The present work posits that social motives, particularly status seeking in the form of moral grandstanding, are likely at least partially to blame for elevated levels of affective polarization and ideological extremism in the U.S. In Study 1, results from both undergraduates (N = 981; Mean age = 19.4; SD = 2.1; 69.7% women) and a cross-section of U.S. adults matched to 2010 census norms (N = 1,063; Mean age = 48.20, SD = 16.38; 49.8% women) indicated that prestige-motived grandstanding was consistently and robustly related to more extreme ideological views on a variety of issues. In Study 2, results from a weighted, nationally-representative cross-section of U.S. adults (N = 2,519; Mean age = 47.5, SD = 17.8; 51.4% women) found that prestige motivated grandstanding was reliably related to both ideological extremism and affective polarization.