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Cross-Country Trends in Affective Polarization

Jan 2020
Working Paper
20-004
By  Levi Boxell, Matthew Gentzkow, Jesse M. Shapiro

We measure trends in affective polarization in nine OECD countries over the past four decades. The US experienced the largest increase in polarization over this period. Three countries experienced a smaller increase in polarization. Five countries experienced a decrease in polarization. These findings are most consistent with explanations of polarization based on changes (e.g., changing party composition, growing racial divisions, the emergence of partisan cable news) that are more distinctive to the US, and less consistent with explanations based on changes (e.g., the emergence of the internet, rising economic inequality) that are more universal.