Affective polarization, local contexts and public opinion in America

James N. Druckman*, Samara Klar, Yanna Krupnikov, Matthew Levendusky, John Barry Ryan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Affective polarization has become a defining feature of twenty-first-century US politics, but we do not know how it relates to citizens’ policy opinions. Answering this question has fundamental implications not only for understanding the political consequences of polarization, but also for understanding how citizens form preferences. Under most political circumstances, this is a difficult question to answer, but the novel coronavirus pandemic allows us to understand how partisan animus contributes to opinion formation. Using a two-wave panel that spans the outbreak of COVID-19, we find a strong association between citizens’ levels of partisan animosity and their attitudes about the pandemic, as well as the actions they take in response to it. This relationship, however, is more muted in areas with severe outbreaks of the disease. Our results make clear that narrowing of issue divides requires not only policy discourse but also addressing affective partisan hostility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28-38
Number of pages11
JournalNature human behaviour
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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