The Effects of Political Attitudes on Affective Polarization: Survey Evidence from 165 Elections


How do individual-level political attitudes influence affective polarization on a global scale? This article contributes to the debate on the social distance of party affect by testing a set of hypotheses in 165 elections across the world. With a sample of over 170,000 voters, the results of multilevel mixed-effects regressions demonstrate that ideological radicalism, political knowledge, and external efficacy substantively affect how voters see the main political parties in electoral disputes taking place in 52 countries from 1996 to 2019. Satisfaction with democracy, however, is context-dependent; it positively influences affective polarization only when generalized democratic satisfaction is low. Furthermore, I show that these correlations remain stable regardless of the operationalization of affective polarization—that is, based on two dominant parties and weighted for multiparty competition. These findings provide robust inputs to the study of party preferences and social distance in a cross-national longitudinal perspective.

Political Studies Review, vol. 21, n. 2
João V. Guedes-Neto
João V. Guedes-Neto
Postdoctoral Researcher