Reasons of Identity: A Normative Guide to the Political and Legal Assessment of Identity Claims


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All variables are coded to range from 0 to 1. Standard errors in parentheses. Models are OLS regressions with robust standard errors represented in parentheses and sample weights applied. In fact, the effect of issue-based ideology is less than half the size of identity-based ideology in each element of social distance. Moving from weakest to strongest identity-based ideology increases preferences to be friends within the ideological group by 16 percentage points, preference to spend social time within the ideological group by 11 percentage points, and preference to live next door to a co-ideologue by 13 percentage points.

These are sizable and significant effects, robust to controls for issue-based ideology, and they demonstrate that Americans are dividing themselves socially on the basis of whether they call themselves liberal or conservative, independent of their actual policy differences. In the fifth column of table 2 , ANES data is used to replicate these results in a more nationally representative sample. In predicting the difference between liberal and conservative feeling thermometers, identity-based ideology is associated with a degree increase in the difference between the feeling thermometers for the ideological ingroup versus outgroup.

This effect is more than five times as large as the effect of issue-based ideology as measured by issue constraint. Even when using this weaker measure of identity-based ideology, significant results are observed in predicting affective ideological polarization. In order to test hypothesis 2, the models from table 2 are modified in three ways. First, for the sake of space, the four social distance items are combined into an index.

Third, the model includes an interaction between identity-based ideology and left-to-right direction of issue positions. The results presented in table 3 suggest that the interactive effect of issue- and identity-based ideology is significant in one case out of four. All models are OLS regressions with robust standard errors represented in parentheses and sample weights applied.

Predicted values of affective polarization facilitate interpretation of these effects. Drawn from the models in table 3 , figures 1 and 2 examine the effect of identity-based ideology among the people who hold the most left-leaning and right-leaning issue positions.

For example, among self-identified liberals, this will include individuals who, across the range of six issues, are the most right-leaning 10 percent of the liberals in the sample, as well as individuals who are the most left-leaning 10 percent of liberals in the sample. All other variables from table 3 are held constant at their means or modes. Interacting identity-based and issue-based ideology, predicting affective polarization against conservatives among liberals. Ninety-five percent confidence intervals shown.

Originating regressions in table 3.


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Interacting identity-based and issue-based ideology, predicting affective polarization against liberals among conservatives. In the first panel of figure 1 using SSI data , the effect of liberal identification on social distance from conservatives is plotted for those scores at the most left-leaning and right-leaning. At the 90th percentile value of left-leaning issue positions among self-identified liberals 0. Among those who have some of the most consistently left-leaning attitudes, moving from weakest to strongest liberal identity increases social distance by about 20 percentage points.

Thus, even when issue positions are consistent with the ideological group, the identification with that group can still have significant effects on feelings toward ideological opponents. Figure 1a also examines the effect of liberal identification at the 90th percentile value of right-leaning issue positions among self-identified liberals 0. Among this 10 percent of most right-leaning liberals, the effect of identity on social distance is somewhat muted.

Reasons of Identity: A Normative Guide to the Political and Legal Assessment of Identity Claims

Moving from weakest to strongest liberal identity increases social distance by about 10 percentage points. Among self-identified liberals with cross-cutting issue-based ideology, the effect of identity on social distance is about half the size of the effect among those liberals with consistent issue-based ideology. This figure, therefore, provides some evidence that cross-cutting issue-based ideology can reduce the effects of identity-based ideology.

However, this particular model is the only place this effect appears. Furthermore, even among these cross-pressured liberals, an increase from weakest to strongest identification does still significantly increase social distance from conservatives. In figure 1b , similar results are found using ANES data and measures, though the dampening effect of issue-based ideology is not replicated. At the 90th percentile value of left-leaning issue positions among identified liberals 0.

Here too, even when left-leaning attitudes are consistent with identity, the degree of identification with liberals is capable of significantly increasing affective polarization against conservatives. Also in figure 1b , self-identified liberals at the 90th percentile of right-leaning issue positions 0. These liberals with cross-cutting issue-based ideology respond to an increase from weak to strong liberal identity with a nearly degree increase in the difference between liberal and conservative feeling thermometers.

Not only are both effects of identity significant, but the slopes of the two lines are not statistically distinguishable. While a set of cross-cutting issue positions may generally decrease social distance from conservatives, in this model it does not change the effect of liberal social identity on feelings toward conservatives.

Figure 2 examines the same models among self-identified conservatives. In figure 2a SSI data , among self-identified conservatives at the 90th percentile value of most right-leaning issue positions 0. That is, among the conservatives with the most consistently right-leaning attitudes, the strength of conservative identity can significantly increase animosity toward liberals. Among conservatives with cross-cutting issue-based ideology, those at the 90th percentile value of most left-leaning attitudes 0. Moving from weakest to strongest conservative identity, even in the presence of cross-cutting opinions, increases social distance by about 15 percentage points.

This is identical to the effect of identity among conservatives with consistently right-leaning positions. The cross-cutting issue positions decrease the general level of social distance from liberals, but the effect of identity is the same regardless of actual positions. In figure 2b , the same model is run using ANES data and measures. Among conservatives at the 90th percentile score of most right-leaning issue positions 0.

Once again, in the presence of right-leaning issue positions, conservative identity is still capable of significantly increasing affective polarization against liberals. Remarkably, the combination of a consistent set of right-leaning attitudes and a strong conservative identity predicts a difference between liberal and conservative feeling thermometers of almost 90 degrees. The only way for this score to occur is if conservatives are rating liberals consistently below 10 degrees, while rating conservatives near Even among those conservatives whose attitudes are not consistent with their identity, the identity has a polarizing effect.

Among conservatives at the 90th percentile score of the most left-leaning attitudes 0. This slope is, again, not distinguishable from that of the issue-consistent conservatives. The main difference between liberals and conservatives in figures 1 and 2 is that liberals with the most right-leaning opinions still hold, on balance, generally left-leaning issue positions. Conservatives with the most left-leaning opinions, however, also hold generally left-leaning issue positions.

This means that the self-identified liberals in these figures are less cross-pressured by attitudes than are self-identified conservatives. The fact that the results are largely similar across the two groups, and that the interaction between identity and issues is only significant in one model out of four, supports the premise that issue-based ideology is not the only factor driving the affective polarization of ideological groups. There is an independent effect of identity-based ideology pushing Americans apart from one another, based in social identity.

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Among the growing number of Americans who are identifying as either liberal or conservative, there is significant heterogeneity. Self-identified liberals and conservatives exhibit varying levels of issue-based consistency, with conservatives holding attitudes that are the least consistent with their chosen ideological label Ellis and Stimson That is, a set of inconsistent issue positions does not prevent someone from disliking their ideological opponents. According to the SSI data, nearly every person who identifies as either liberal or conservative reports some degree of social preference for the ideological ingroup over the outgroup in every aspect of social distance measured.

These findings reflect a continuing problem of political segregation that has been observed in the American electorate. DiPrete et al.

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Klofstad, McDermott, and Hatemi find that liberals and conservatives prefer to date inside the ideological group. The results presented here underscore this social distancing on ideological terms. Furthermore, this process is occurring without much regard to actual issue-based disagreement. Some of this is likely due to partisan-ideological sorting and media consolidation that has allowed even uninformed Americans to know the name of their ideological team. But team names without issue knowledge can generate political conflict that is unmoored from distinct policy goals.

This is likely to lead to a less compromise-oriented electorate.

After all, if policy outcomes are less important than team victory, a policy compromise is a useless concession to the enemy. Although politics is generally thought to be outside everyday experience for most Americans, social identity is a deeply embedded psychological orientation toward all social interactions. While policy attitudes may not be structuring these interactions to a huge degree, the sense of ideological identification does affect the relationships between Americans.

And more likely than not, the effects of ideological identity reported here are not the only outcomes.

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Ideological social identity should be expected to do the same. As aversion toward the ideological outgroup grows, motivation to participate in politics is likely to grow as well. Future research should assess the ability of identity-based ideology to move voters to the polls. Finally, when political scientists discuss ideological polarization, what is usually meant is an increasing distance between the issue-based ideological positions of partisans.

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These results imply that it may be clearer going forward to refer to this as issue-based polarization. American identities are better than American opinions at explaining conflict. In the context of the election, many pundits have expressed confusion over the appeal of a candidate whose policy plans seemed, at best, ideologically conflicted.

Reasons of Identity: A Normative Guide to the Political and Legal Assessment of Identity Claims Reasons of Identity: A Normative Guide to the Political and Legal Assessment of Identity Claims
Reasons of Identity: A Normative Guide to the Political and Legal Assessment of Identity Claims Reasons of Identity: A Normative Guide to the Political and Legal Assessment of Identity Claims
Reasons of Identity: A Normative Guide to the Political and Legal Assessment of Identity Claims Reasons of Identity: A Normative Guide to the Political and Legal Assessment of Identity Claims
Reasons of Identity: A Normative Guide to the Political and Legal Assessment of Identity Claims Reasons of Identity: A Normative Guide to the Political and Legal Assessment of Identity Claims
Reasons of Identity: A Normative Guide to the Political and Legal Assessment of Identity Claims Reasons of Identity: A Normative Guide to the Political and Legal Assessment of Identity Claims
Reasons of Identity: A Normative Guide to the Political and Legal Assessment of Identity Claims Reasons of Identity: A Normative Guide to the Political and Legal Assessment of Identity Claims
Reasons of Identity: A Normative Guide to the Political and Legal Assessment of Identity Claims Reasons of Identity: A Normative Guide to the Political and Legal Assessment of Identity Claims
Reasons of Identity: A Normative Guide to the Political and Legal Assessment of Identity Claims Reasons of Identity: A Normative Guide to the Political and Legal Assessment of Identity Claims
Reasons of Identity: A Normative Guide to the Political and Legal Assessment of Identity Claims Reasons of Identity: A Normative Guide to the Political and Legal Assessment of Identity Claims

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