Group identities that are chosen, rather than inherited, are often associated with cohesive political attitudes and behaviours. Conventional wisdom holds that this distinctiveness is generated by mobilization through processes such as intra-group contact and acculturation. This article identifies another mechanism that can explain cohesiveness: selection. The characteristics that predict whether an individual selects a group identity may themselves determine political attitudes, and thus may account substantially for the political cohesion of those who share the identity. This mechanism is illustrated with analyses of the causes and consequences of the acquisition of lesbian, gay or bisexual identity. Seldom shared by parents and offspring, gay identity provides a rare opportunity to cleanly identify the selection process and its implications for political cohesion.
(Online publication February 07 2012)
* Wilf Family Department of Politics, New York University (email: email@example.com). The author thanks Chris Achen, Doug Arnold, Murray Edelman, Andrew Francis, Steven Greene, Donald Haider-Markel, Karen Long Jusko, Gregory Lewis, Tali Mendelberg, Megan Mullin, Jonathan Nagler, Randall Sell, Kenneth Sherrill, John Sides, Josh Tucker, Rick Valelly, Rebecca Weitz-Shapiro, and seminar participants at Columbia University, New York University, Princeton University, Swarthmore College, and the New York chapter of the American Association for Public Opinion Research for conversations and comments. An earlier version of this article won the Pi Sigma Alpha award for best paper presented at the 2008 meetings of the Southern Political Science Association. Data and instructions for replicating the analyses in this study are posted at http://politics.as.nyu.edu/object/PatrickEgan.html.