Why has the American political landscape grown more partisan since the 1970s? This article provides a novel account of the determinants of partisanship. The author argues that partisanship is not only shaped by the traditionally suggested socio-economic factors, but also by the uncertainty of future income (risk exposure): rich individuals facing a high degree of risk exposure (or poor people facing low risk exposure) are ‘cross-pressured’; while their income suggests that they should identify with the Republicans, their income prospects make them sympathize with the Democrats. These two traits have overlapped increasingly since the 1970s. Those with lower incomes tend to be also those with higher risk exposure (risk inequality increased). This has led to a sorting of the American electorate: more citizens have become ‘natural’ partisans.
(Online publication October 28 2010)
* Department of Political Science, The Ohio State University (email: email@example.com). Earlier versions of this article have been presented at various occasions. The author thanks participants of the ‘Research Workshop in Political Economy’ (Harvard University), the ‘Methods of Political Analysis’ class at Harvard University, a seminar at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, the Post-Doc as well as the Politics Seminar at Nuffield College, Oxford University, the ‘Permanent Seminar series’ at the Juan March Institute, and the Department of Government’s seminar series at the University of Essex. Comments from John Aldrich, Jim Alt, Michele Belot, Ray Duch, Geoff Evans, Ben Goodrich, Peter Hall, Herbert Kitschelt, Scott Moser, Katherine Newman, David Rueda, David Soskice, Jim Stimson, Vera Troeger and Inés Valdez are gratefully acknowledged. Several of the Journal’s reviewers have made excellent suggestions that have improved this article.