Date of Award

5-2014

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis

Department

Finance, Real Estate, and Business Law; Political Science, International Development, and International Affairs

First Advisor

Troy Gibson, Ph.D.

Advisor Department

Political Science, International Development, and International Affairs

Abstract

Political polarization is the social process by which the ideas and values of a politically moderate majority are slowly replaced by an uncompromising political ideology. In the American context, the term ‘polarization’ is meant to conjure an image of Americans moving from the moderate center to the uncompromising ideologies of modern conservatism or liberalism. This study examined whether a group’s level of political polarization can be a reliable predictor for its voting patterns. To do so, a two-part questionnaire was disseminated to a sample of undergraduate students at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM). The first section determined if a participant possessed strong ideological convictions and the second part was a hypothetical election that had five political candidates running for a Congressional seat. Unbeknownst to the participant, however, each nominee represented a particular position on the political ideological spectrum. The survey results showed that the sample did not hold a polarizing stance on any of the political issues outlined in the first section and the two candidates that possessed strong ideological convictions received the least number of votes in the Congressional election. The survey data was run through SPSS software to create a political summary index that could rank survey takers on the degree of their ideological convictions. A difference in proportions test was then used to compare these rankings to the corresponding votes. The outcome showed that there is a statistically significant correlation between a group’s level of political polarization and its preferred voting choice.

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