University of Nebraska - Lincoln
Department of Political Science


Abstract: The Impact of Polarization on Political Trust

The polarization of elected officials is almost palpable in American politics. Questions remain, however, about the extent to which the public is polarized. A promising area to examine the extent and impact of polarization is political trust. We know that people are more trusting of the government when their party controls the White House. This effect should be even more pronounced during times of partisan polarization when it, in essence, matters more which party is in power. I bring together two strains of research, group identity and the psychological differences between liberals and conservatives, to test whether Democrats and Republicans react differently to polarization. Since political trust affects support for government programs, with those less trusting being less supportive, I also test whether polarization affects partisan differences in support for these programs. 

Biographical Sketch:

Elizabeth Theiss-Morse is Willa Cather Professor of Political Science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She received her Ph.D. in political science from the University of Minnesota. Her research focuses on American public opinion and democracy, including support for civil liberties, Congress, democratic processes, and the American people. She is the author or co-author of five books: Political Behavior of the American Electorate, 13th edition (2015); Who Counts as an American? (2009), winner of the Robert E. Lane Award; Stealth Democracy (2002), named an “Outstanding Academic Title” by Choice magazine; Congress as Public Enemy (1995), winner of the Fenno Prize; and With Malice Toward Some (1995), winner of the Best Book in Political Psychology Prize. She has received five National Science Foundation grants and is the winner of a distinguished teaching award. 

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