Affective Polarization in Comparative and Longitudinal Perspective

Public Opin Q. 2023 Feb 24;87(1):219-231. doi: 10.1093/poq/nfad004. eCollection 2023 Spring.


Existent research shows that affective polarization has been intensifying in some publics, diminishing in others, and remaining stable in most. We contribute to this debate by providing the most encompassing comparative and longitudinal account of affective polarization so far. We resort to a newly assembled dataset able to track partisan affect, with varying time series, in eighteen democracies over the last six decades. We present results based on two different operational measures of affective polarization: Reiljan's Affective Polarization Index, based on reported partisans only, and Wagner's weighted distance from the most liked party, based on the whole electorate. Our reassessment of affective polarization among partisans confirms that an intensifying trend is observable in a number of countries but it is, by no means, generalizable to all established democracies. Regarding the longitudinal assessment of affective polarization among the electorate, we confirm that US citizens have become more affectively polarized over time.