Harvard Business Review] After the bruising and contentious 2016 U.S. presidential election, it’s not surprising that Americans’ evaluations of members of the opposite political party have reached an all-time low. According to data from the Pew Research Center, 45% of Republicans and 41% of Democrats think the other party is so dangerous that it is a threat to the health of the nation. This animus has spilled over into social networks: According to a HuffPost/YouGov poll, nearly half of Americans got into an argument with someone (a friend, family member, coworker, etc.) about the election last year. Fifty years ago few people expressed any anger when asked how they would feel if their child married someone from the other party. Today, one-third of Democrats and nearly half of Republicans would be deeply upset. On item after item, Americans not only disagree on the issues but also increasingly personally dislike those from the other party.
This is a phenomenon scholars call affective polarization.
Political scientists have attributed a number of important consequences
to the increase of affective polarization in the United States, chief
among them increased gridlock and dysfunction in Washington, DC.
But much less is known about whether affective polarization changes how
we interact outside of politics. Do these partisan sentiments affect
economic exchanges between individuals from opposing parties?
This question is especially timely given recent, post-election
discussions of American consumers either supporting or boycotting
companies for their association with the opposing party. For example,
the group Grab Your Wallet has suggested that people boycott several
companies over their ties to the Trump administration, including L.L.
Bean and Macy’s, and the #DeleteUber hashtag spread after Uber failed to
support New York taxi drivers’ protest of the administration’s travel
ban. Ivanka Trump’s brand has been a political football used by both the
left and the right. Are these simply highly publicized but isolated
incidents, or do they represent a broader trend of partisanship shaping
how people make economic decisions even in the absence of a public
campaign calling for a specific boycott? Read More