How Generational Differences in Socialization and Identity Shaped America's Partisan-Ideological Landscape Open Access

Pierce, Andrew (2015)

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Over the past 60 years the United States experienced dynamic changes in the shape of public opinion. Americans have become more ideological, and are participating in new and exciting ways. But what explains the changes that we see in the electorate? What might explain these changes? This dissertations examines the partisan-ideological development of the United States since the 1950s. Using national survey data, it finds three important causes for the development of partisanship and ideology in the United States. In the first part, I show how Americans have become more ideological within the two major parties, a phenomenon which can be described as sorting and polarization. I also explain this development as a consequence of growing education and political sophistication in the electorate. As Americans have become more educated and politically sophisticated, the major parties in the electorate have diverged to a greater extent. In part two, I track the growth of political sophistication among American women. American women have polarized as a much faster rate than men, and I explain this change by looking at how generational differences in gender norms explain explosive growth in the political sophistication of women. This sophistication, in turn, helps to explain partisan polarization among women. Thus, changes in gender identity are tied to partisan-ideological development. Finally, part three explores how changing racial identity for American blacks has led to segmentation in black public opinion. As black Americans have become incorporated into American public life, their political identity with respect to race has changed as well. These changes have led to the development of a growing subset of conservative blacks, and a more heterogenous black voting bloc overall. Thus, generational differences in political sophistication as mediated by education and political identity are shown to have shaped the American partisan-ideological landscape.

Table of Contents

What's Going on in American Public Opinion? 1

Partisan-Ideological Change in American Public Opinion 4

Introduction 4

Partisan-Ideological Change in the American Electorate 6

Measuring Mass Ideology 11

When did Partisan-Ideological Change Start? 20

Conclusion 27

Tables and Figures 29

Appendix 39

2. Gender Identity and Partisan-Ideological Change 47

Introduction 47

Polarization in the Electorate 49

What Explains Gender Differences in Polarization? 56

A Theory of Gender Socialization and Polarization 60

Analysis 63

Conclusion 72

Tables 74

Figures 78

Appendix 93

3. Incorporation, Identity, and Change in Black Public Opinion 101

Introduction 101

Recent Changes in Black Public Opinion 102

Why Are Younger Generations of Blacks More Conservative? 107

A Theory of Incorp oration and Black Public Opinion 112

Data and Analysis 114

Conclusion 122

Figures 124

Tables 135

Appendix 136

Bibliography 141

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