Defensive Partisanship? Evidence that In-Party Scandals Increase Out-Party Hostility

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© 2020 International Society of Political Psychology Contemporary U.S. politics is characterized by polarization and interpartisan antipathy. This is accompanied by a media landscape saturated with coverage of political scandals. Applying a social identity perspective, we examined whether exposure to scandals that threaten partisan's moral group image (i.e., in-party scandals), may motivate defensive hostility against opposing partisans. Across three experiments we exposed U.S. partisans to scandals attributed to either in-party or out-party politicians. We then assessed partisan hostility using a variety of operationalizations, including anger at a real outgroup politician (Study 1), judgments about the alleged misdeeds of a fabricated outgroup politician (Study 2), and negative perceptions of opposing party members (Study 3). Strength of partisan identity was assessed as a predicted moderator (Study 3). As expected in- (vs. out-) party scandals, were perceived as group-image threats and elicited greater hostility towards opposing partisans, independent of partisans' ideological extremity or prior affective polarization.

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Political Psychology

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