Screw Those Guys: Polarization, Empathy, and Attitudes About Out‐Partisans

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2020-10-27
Authors
Allamong, Maxwell
Peterson, David
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Political Science
Abstract

Empathic ability is the ability to interpret the emotional state of others. In today's highly partisan and polarized environment, empathic ability may play a key role in determining how partisans respond emotionally to changes in public policy and those helped or harmed by the policy. Utilizing Baron‐Cohen et al.'s (Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 42, 241–251, 2001) “Reading the Mind in the Eyes” test to measure empathic ability, we conduct a survey experiment where we asked participants to read about a partisan individual who may lose their health insurance if the Affordable Care Act were to be repealed. We show that empathic ability shapes attitudes about people and policies, but that the effects are contingent upon the respondent's partisanship, the target's partisanship, and an interaction of the two. Empathic ability produces more positive affect and policy support among Democrats but reduces positive affect among Republicans. The divergent effects of empathic ability on Democrats and Republicans are further exacerbated when the target is an out‐partisan.

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This accepted article is published as Allamong, M.B. and Peterson, D.A.M. (2020), Screw Those Guys: Polarization, Empathy, and Attitudes About Out‐Partisans. Political Psychology. doi:10.1111/pops.12701. Posted with permission.

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Wed Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2020
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