New research explores complex puzzle of people's partisan feelings

Graduate student researcher Adi Wiezel recently published a study in American Politics Research

January 30, 2023

New research done in the Arizona State University Department of Psychology suggests that affective polarization in the United States is not as simple as it is often portrayed. While the American political world is shown as being increasingly divisive, such that people tend to like their own political party while loathing the other, this may not paint a complete picture. 

Graduate student researcher Adi Wiezel recently published a study in American Politics Research that aimed to unpack the complex puzzle of people’s partisan feelings. Wiezel, a social psychology doctoral candidate with a master’s degree in political science, partnered with fellow PhD candidate John Wagner, a political scientist from the University of New Mexico, to investigate people’s partisan feelings and their relationship to political trust.  Black-and-white photo of a person seen from behind speaking into a microphone to a crowd of people. Photo by Kevin Fitzgerald/Unsplash Download Full Image

“When we talk about political polarization in the affective sense, a lot of what we talk about tends to be this animus or dislike that we have toward the opposite party. So if you're a Democrat, it's how much you'd dislike Republicans and vice versa. Additionally, it is how positive you feel about your own party,” Wiezel said.

Wiezel and Wagner were interested in further understanding the statistical breakdown of the American population in terms of their attitudes toward the different parties. They took data from self-reported Democrats and Republicans who participated in the American National Election Studies in 2016 and 2020, and separated groups based on how they felt toward their own political party, and the opposing political party.

“A traditional theory of affective polarization focuses on party affect — or how warm you feel toward your own party and how negative you may feel about the opposite party. These things are thought to operate in conjunction, suggesting you should be high in both ‘out-party’ animus and high in ‘in-party’ affinity,” Wiezel said. “We started by categorizing people into four quadrants of positive and negative feelings towards their own party and the opposite party.”

Unsurprisingly, a large majority of participants indicated liking their own party and disliking the opposite party; however, Wagner and Wiezel also found a large group that disliked both parties, and a small minority that indicated liking both parties. This did not vary by political party; these types of partisan feelings existed among both Democrats and Republicans alike.

Portrait of ASU graduate student researcher Adi Wiezel.

ASU graduate student researcher Adi Wiezel recently published a study in American Politics Research that aimed to unpack the complex puzzle of people’s partisan feelings.

The researchers then analyzed respondents’ level of “political trust,” or how much trust they had in the American government. They found that people with positive feelings toward both their own and the opposite political party (“double-likers”) reported higher levels of political trust, and those with negative feelings toward both the opposite and their own political party (“double-dislikers”) reported lower levels of political trust. 

Additionally, Wagner and Wiezel looked at how these partisan attitude groups changed over recent time, between 2016 and 2020. The number of classically polarized partisans, or people who liked their own party and disliked the opposition, increased in number over time. However, people who liked both parties increased in their level of trust over time, as well. 

Related: New master's program trains students to understand motivations in politics

“I think these findings are important because if we see an increase in animus between people, it really helps us to understand what kinds of feelings that negativity is paired with. Is it always paired with me liking my own party? Is it not? Do those people behave differently and trust governmental institutions differently? Because that might also impact whether they're more likely to follow laws and whether they're likely to turn out to vote,” said Wiezel.

“Having this more nuanced understanding of people's affective relationships can potentially help bridge some of these gaps down the line”

Robert Ewing

Marketing and Communications Manager, Department of Psychology


Teach for America CEO to visit ASU

January 30, 2023

On the heels of Arizona State University's naming as a top two producer of Teach For America corps members, the organization's CEO, Elisa Villanueva Beard, will visit the university Tuesday, Jan. 31, to meet with the Sun Devil community and reflect on the work that makes that ranking possible.

Teach For America is a nonprofit organization that enlists recent college graduates of all academic majors to teach for two years in urban and rural public schools. In 2006, ASU and Teach for America created a partnership that advances Teach For America recruitment, alumni leadership and corps member support and development. For the past seven years, ASU has been a top contributor of Teach for America corp members among large schools in the U.S.  Teacher standing at the front of a classroom full of students. A teacher goes over an English writing assignment with fourth-grade students at the ASU Prep Poly STEM Academy. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News Download Full Image

Beard’s journey with Teach For America started in Phoenix, where she taught first and second grade bilingual education. 

“Elisa’s visit to ASU showcases the continued partnership Teach For America has with the university,” said Veronica Aguilar, vice president of recruitment with Teach for America. “She is looking forward to connecting with Sun Devil students who are interested in learning more about Teach For America as the senior application deadline approaches on Feb. 10."

Beard’s schedule will consist of small group meetings with Undergraduate Student Government, Changemaker Central and Barrett, The Honors College. She will also attend partner meetings with ASU Provost Nancy Gonzales, James Rund, senior vice president for Educational Outreach and Student Services, Tara Williams, dean of the Honors College, and Carole Basile, dean of the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

Aguilar said the leaders will discuss strategies to expand Teach For America’s impact and further its mission to end educational inequity. 

Beard will conclude her visit at a networking mixer with high-profile Teach For America alumni, future Sun Devil corps members, and campus staff and faculty at the University Club on the Tempe campus.

“We are honored to have Ms. Beard visit our campus and meet with the students, staff and faculty who share a commitment to educational excellence, both here at ASU and throughout the communities that Teach for America serves,” said Safali Patel, associate vice president for Educational Outreach and Student Services. “We are proud that our partnership continues to grow and strengthen each year.”

Copy writer and editor, Educational Outreach and Student Services