The Economic Consequences of Partisanship in a Polarized Era

by on April 26, 2017 at 1:09 am in Economics, Political Science | Permalink

That is the title of a new paper by Christopher McConnell, Yotam Margalit, and Neil Malhotra.  The main (and sad) point is that even in non-political settings we trust other people less if they have different political views than ours:

With growing affective polarization in the United States, partisanship is increasingly an impediment to cooperation in political settings. But does partisanship also affect behavior in non-political settings? We show evidence that it does, demonstrating its effect on economic outcomes across a range of experiments in real-world environments. A field experiment in an online labor market indicates that workers request systematically lower reservation wages when the employer shares their political stance, reflecting a preference to work for co-partisans. We conduct two field experiments with consumers, and find a preference for dealing with co-partisans, especially among those with strong partisan attachments. Finally, via a population-based, incentivized survey experiment, we find that the influence of political considerations on economic choices extends also to weaker partisans. Whereas earlier studies show the political consequences of polarization in American politics, our findings suggest that partisanship spills over beyond the political, shaping cooperation in everyday economic behavior.

For the pointer I thank Daniel Klein.

1 William Graham Sumner April 26, 2017 at 2:10 am

“The thirteen colonies, as we all know, were independent commonwealths with respect to each other. They had little sympathy and a great deal of jealousy. They came into a union with each other upon terms which were stipulated and defined in the Constitution, but they united only unwillingly and under the pressure of necessity. What was at first only a loose combination or alliance has been welded together into a great state by the history of a century. Nothing, however, has altered that which was the first condition of the Union; viz., that all the states members of it should be on the same plane of civilization and political development; that they should all hold the same ideas, traditions, and political creed; that their social standards and ideals should be such as to maintain cordial sympathy between them. The Civil War arose out of the fact that this condition was imperfectly fulfilled. At other times actual differences in standpoint and principle, or in ideals and opinion, have produced discord within the confederation. Such crises are inevitable in any confederated state. It is the highest statesmanship in such a system to avoid them, or smooth them over, and above all, never to take in voluntarily any heterogeneous elements. The prosperity of such a state depends on closer and closer sympathy between the parts in order that differences which arise may be easily harmonized. What we need is more intension, not more extension. It follows, then, that it is unwisdom to take into a State like this any foreign element which is not congenial to it. Any such element will act as a solvent upon it.” — The Conquest of the United States by Spain, (1899)

2 prior_test2 April 26, 2017 at 2:17 am

‘The main (and sad) point is that even in non-political settings we trust other people less if they have different political views than ours’

So reductionist – how about this one? ‘The main (and sad) point is that even in non-religious settings we trust other people less if they have different religious views than ours.’

Or this one – ‘The main (and sad) point is that even in non-political settings we trust other people less if they have different nationalities than ours.’

Or maybe this one – ‘The main (and sad) point is that even in non-food settings we trust other people less if they have different food strictures views than ours.’ (Think kosher for one explanation for a long term explanation involving European anti-semitism.

Almost as if some people are interested in reducing trust, so as to ensure that a minority retains its firm grip on power, in large part to ensure that the rich keep getting richer. Which leads to the this rewording – ‘The main (and sad) point is that even in non-monetary settings we trust other people less if they have less money than us.’

And one assumes it would be too trite to write something so obvious – ‘The main (and sad) point is that even in non-family settings we trust other people less if they aren’t family.’

3 KEET April 26, 2017 at 9:16 am

Classic example of projection.

4 Axa April 26, 2017 at 4:52 am

Partisans are annoying, working with our for them requires extra patience which is not free. I’d call it the “annoying client” premium.

Sometimes you just want to buy a good and it doesn’t what the vendor/producer believes.

5 Anonymous April 26, 2017 at 5:53 am

I have never had an employer, or prospective employee, who had the lack of discipline to talk politics in the hiring process. To even have politics discussed seems to be veering into small company weirdness.

So yeah, the experiment sets up a big read flag for a strange job experience.

6 Axa April 26, 2017 at 7:12 am

“Whenever the lady or gentleman with whom you are discussing a point, whether of love, war, science or politics, begins to sophisticate, drop the subject instantly. Your adversary either wants the ability to maintain his opinion,—and then it would be uncivil to press it—or he wants the still more useful ability to yield the point with unaffected grace and good-humor; or what is also possible, his vanity is in some way engaged in defending views on which he may probably have acted, so that to demolish his opinions is perhaps to reprove his conduct, and no well-bred man goes into society for the purpose of sermonizing.”

Martine’s Hand-book of Etiquette and Guide to True Politeness, 1866. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/36048/36048-h/36048-h.htm

7 chuck martel April 26, 2017 at 6:19 am

In other news scientists say that later today the sun will disappear from the sky and darkness will ensue, lasting for about ten hours, depending on location.

8 Hunter Pritchett April 26, 2017 at 7:00 am

In an age when so much of politics is tied up in gender, race, and nationality, this doesn’t really surprise me.

I know people that have made decisions about their job that were influenced nominally by the persons political views, but where the political views were really just a reflection of their views on people. If you were a women or a member of a minority race, would you want to work for a neo-reactionary? If you were a Jew in Germany (before the holocaust of course) would you have wanted to work for a Nazi supporter?

As long as political parties aren’t differentiated based upon race and gender, I could see how you might lament partisanship in the workplace, but we are moving further away from that and these are the predictable effects. The disappointing thing is that bigots are being given a home in Donald Trump’s Republican party; of course people will then use political affiliation as a stand in for how they will be treated on the job.

9 The Other Jim April 26, 2017 at 8:14 am

>bigots are being given a home in Donald Trump’s Republican party

That’s some keen level-headed analysis. No polarization here, folks!

10 Jeremy April 26, 2017 at 10:07 am

> bigots are being given a home in Donald Trump’s Republican party

Bigot: “a person who is intolerant toward those holding different opinions.”

Now, look at your Facebook feed and the news. Which side of the political spectrum is constantly posting hateful remarks about people who disagree with their opinions? Which side is boycotting, harassing, intimidating, mocking, hating, or even physically attacking people with different opinions? Which side will vandalize a car or home if it has a sign for a politician they disagree with? Which side looks for ways to economically/emotionally/physically hurt people who disagree? Which side actually forms mobs to physically beat up people who disagree with them?

Why is making sexist jokes about Trump’s wife okay? Or making fun of his kids? Including his kid with autism?!? Why is it okay to suggest that having some German genes makes you a Nazi? Why is it okay for a presidential candidate to say that half the people who disagree are “deplorables”?

Let me be clear on this: I don’t support Donald Trump and I won’t call him president. And I disagree with conservatives on almost everything. But bigotry is running out of control on one side of the political spectrum… and it isn’t the Trump supporters.

11 Gil April 26, 2017 at 11:26 am

You are using the broadest definition of bigot which is not usually what people mean when they say bigot.

Almost half of the voters chose Billary. These folks are not vandalizing your house or forming mobs to beat you up. They are your neighbors and coworkers; perfectly ordinary respectable people. If you are going to stereotype liberals, it is best to think “bleeding heart”. However misguided the policy prescriptions, the motivation is to help people.

So, ironically you fell into the same “deplorable” trap, ascribing to the entire liberal “side of the political spectrum” the traits of a few bad apples without realizing the there are bad apples of every stripe.

I don’t read facebook anymore, but I do read the news voraciously. I see scant evidence to support your perceptions. Maybe lay off of facebook or at least realize that what is in your feed is not very related to what is happening in the real world. You see what someone wants you to see, presumably to sell ads.

As I go throughout my day, I don’t directly see/experience any bad apples at all. I see perfectly ordinary respectable people of all political persuasions. That is my reality.

12 Jeremy April 26, 2017 at 12:10 pm

>You are using the broadest definition of bigot
I am using the actual dictionary definition. The term may be used incorrectly or in a limited way to fit a particular agenda, but that doesn’t mean that I’m wrong to use the actual dictionary definition.

You seem to think I’m getting my views from the sensationalized news. That’s somewhat fair – most of my examples are the extremes.

But the problem is everywhere. It’s very normal for me to hear someone at work to personally attack a Trump supporter. Or for a more-liberal family member or friend to casually call all conservatives (and libertarians and moderates) nasty names. And I can’t have an intellectual conversation with most of my liberal friends/acquaintances anymore because anytime I explore an idea that might question their ideology, I risk being ostracized.

I’m not calling liberals bad people. I’m complaining that respectable liberal people have started to think that the bad behavior is okay. That’s the difference between my complaint and the ‘deplorable’ remark. I’m not writing off a hundred million people as hopelessly bad people. I’m complaining about bad behavior becoming normalized, even among respectable folks.

13 Jeremy April 26, 2017 at 12:11 pm

* There should be a new line right before “The term may be …”. That caused my use of the quote to be confusing.

14 Jeremy April 26, 2017 at 12:39 pm

* Correction: there should be a new line before “I am using the actual dictionary definition”.

15 TMC April 26, 2017 at 11:18 pm

Jeremy +1 Well said.

16 A Definite Beta Guy April 26, 2017 at 3:24 pm

I’m not sure if you know how Facebook works, but the people on your Facebook feed are people you actually know in real life. You meet them, send them a friend request, and their stuff shows up in your feed.

Yes, the people lighting rhetorical firestorms on my Facebook feed are a lot more moderate in day-to-day affairs, but the question is what happens when Anti-Fa rolls into town or the Nine Royals in DC rule on whether it’s constitutional to seize my 401(k) for some moronic reparations plans. Or whether you should be fired because you said there are only 1,206 genders and Bill Nye the Mediocre Comedian said there are 1,207 genders (BECAUSE SCIENCE!)

It doesn’t do well for anyone to panic over every small little slight, but it doesn’t do one well to ignore the utter antipathy the other side holds for you politically, and how that can definitely translate into some serious QOL hits once they come to power.

17 Dr. D April 26, 2017 at 10:57 pm

When I use a word, Humpty Dumpty said, it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.

18 Thiago Ribeiro April 26, 2017 at 12:42 pm

“Let me be clear on this: I don’t support Donald Trump and I won’t call him president.”
Have you always avoided calling American presidents “president”?

19 Jeremy April 26, 2017 at 12:54 pm

I’m not sure what you’re trying to ask or suggest so I’ll answer (too) thoroughly.

The name feels like it implies some respect. I have a very strong distaste for Trump so it would feel awkward to use a word that implies respect. Mostly I stated that to show that I’m not part of “the other side”.
I very rarely referred to either Clinton, Obama or Bush with the word “president” anyway.

20 Thiago Ribeiro April 26, 2017 at 2:31 pm

“I very rarely referred to either Clinton, Obama or Bush with the word ‘president’ anyway.”

I can not imagine one referring extensively to one’s president without using the word “president”. In Brazil, there was even discussion if tnere should be used a feminine form to address former president Rousseff.

21 Troll Me April 27, 2017 at 1:35 am

I hold bigotry towards intolerant people.

Failure to embrace intolerance of intolerance as the exception to tolerance is totally illogical.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not proposing anti-Nazi death camps. I just don’t respect you.

22 Ia definite beta guy April 27, 2017 at 8:33 am

Intolerance to intolerance is moral righteousness, not ethical thinking.

23 Troll Me April 27, 2017 at 10:24 am

When you need to defend intolerance as an IN PRINCIPLE good …

… you’ve got problems.

I’ve defended the unfortunate necessary exception.

Which group do you need to uphold the moral uprighteousness of holding negative prejudice against? And, are you capable of forming independnet judgement if meeting an individual from that group, even if holding some degree of negative opinion towards that group in general?

Blacks? Hispanics? Muslims? Jews?

I’m defending the right of intolerance towards the intolerant. For which reason do you need to defend the theoretical moral legitimacy of intolerance towards?

(Now, if statistically speaking terrorism were more dangerous than slippery bathtubs, I might be open to a little more intolerance towards THEIR intolerance. However, it remains a fact that slippery bathtubs kill more Americans than terrorists, whereas the opposite does not apply – American bombs kill more Muslims than slippery bathtubs do … maybe they’ve got more of a leg to stand on in THEIR intolerance. But then .. theocracy, limited press freedoms ;.. they’re in a tougher situation … )

24 Fool Hunter April 27, 2017 at 10:35 am

,,,bigots…Trump’s party…”

Case in point!

The lack of self-awareness is stunning!

25 Alex April 26, 2017 at 9:41 am

This is a good reason to keep your political views closely guarded. I would like to follow Tyler on Twitter, but I am currently holding out because folks might (correctly) infer that my political views somewhat resemble his. So I just leech off this blog.

26 Alex April 26, 2017 at 9:57 am

I just thought of a way to handle this. For every right-leaning person I follow, I’ll also require myself to follow a left-leaning person. Sounds good?

27 A Definite Beta Guy April 26, 2017 at 10:12 am

Hateful partisans won’t see this as a good compromise. It still looks like sleeping with the enemy.

28 Alex April 26, 2017 at 12:40 pm

I have to agree, actually.

29 Anonymous April 26, 2017 at 11:37 am

If you have a Twitter, YouTube, etc. use in business, or for a “purpose,” it’s probably best to name that and brand it for the purpose. Then have a personal Twitter, if you wish, where you are freer to follow (or post opinion, even).

I’ve seen people burned, with fix-it channels that end up on one side of an election, or a shopping advice account forced to back off. In each case the “purposed” account should have stayed purposed.

30 Alex April 26, 2017 at 12:39 pm

A “personal” account where folks from business can find you easily. What’s the point?

31 Anonymous April 26, 2017 at 1:03 pm

It depends on the uniqueness of your name and experience. Not all names or people are easily found.

But beyond that, I do think that people respect a “personal account, my views are my own” as a demonstration of self-control and separation from professional interests. Or at least they should.

32 Thiago Ribeiro April 26, 2017 at 11:02 am

As the American regime collapses, Americans take to fearing and hating their own countrymen.

33 Lanigram April 27, 2017 at 10:46 am

We have diversity and we are, publicly, proud of it. Yet, we bowl alone.

Never underestimate the power of denial….or of delusion.

34 harpersnotes April 26, 2017 at 11:38 am

Regarding the question “does partisanship also affect behavior in non-political settings”, see also the intriguing argument that political orientations get used as proxies for personality traits in courtship displays at university protests, and you can try the search string (for the pdf), —> Miller, G. F. (1996). Political peacocks. Demos Quarterly, 10 (Special issue on evolutionary psychology), pp. 9-11. <— (I most like the part might emphasize the signalling of membership in a locally powerful coalition.)

35 mgregoire April 26, 2017 at 1:26 pm

Wait, can’t “The main (and sad) point is that even in non-political settings we trust other people less if they have different political views than ours,” equally be phrased as, “The main (and happy) point is that even in non-political settings we trust other people /more/ if they have the /same/ political views as ours”?

If individuals spend more of their time with persons who share their political views than with those who oppose them, increased partisanship may lead to a net increase in trust for social interactions.

36 Thiago Ribeiro April 26, 2017 at 4:05 pm

Yet, a divided cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half Trumpist and half anti-Trumpist. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of Trump will arrest the further spread of him, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that he is in the course of ultimate extinction; or his advocates will push it forward, till he shall become vkctorious in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.

37 Troll Me April 27, 2017 at 10:49 am

Watch out, or people who write books like “In Trump We Trust” might believe that is the situation which must necessarily be followed through on.

38 Lanigram April 27, 2017 at 10:50 am


If individuals spend more of their time with persons who share their political views than with those who oppose them, increased partisanship may lead to a net increase in trust for social interactions.”

Infortunately, that is true only within the group. Trust between groups is lower, and this is our big problem in a diverse nation. What will hold us together?

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