The Inseparability of Race and Partisanship in the United States

Westwood, Sean J.; Peterson, Erik
Political Behavior

Many recent studies consider the overlapping nature of major political identities. Drawing on this research, we posit that partisanship and race are so enmeshed in the public mind that events which independently trigger one of these identities can also activate the other. We find support for this in three behavioral game experiments with 5496 respondents. These studies reveal what we refer to as the “parallel updating” of out-group affect. Shifts in racial affect are accompanied by simultaneous movement in attitudes and behavior towards members of the other political party. Conversely, changes in partisan affect co-occur with movement in views of racial out-groups. Our results speak to the inseparability of racial and partisan affect in the United States and suggest an important link between studies of racial animus and partisan affective polarization.