Building a Common Identity

Does Priming Common Group Identity Decrease Political Polarization

  • Connor Wiwad MacEwan University


In the political arena, combatants can engage in logical fallacies which promote an environment of conflict and disagreement. This aforementioned conflict leads to both real, as well as perceived, polarization between political opponents. One reason for the perception of polarization is simply the division of people into groups such as Conservative versus Liberal (Van Boven, Judd, & Sherman, 2012). According to Social Identity Theory, if an individual adopts a political identity, they tend to interpret information to protect that identity. Media portrayals of polarization may ironically enhance polarization (Levendusky & Malholtra, 2016). The average person is frequently exposed to media depicting the political world as polarized and conflictual. This common narrative may increase both perceived and actual polarization, particularly when people think of politics as one group versus another. However, we hypothesize that portraying polarization may not lead people to polarize themselves when they think of politics through the lens of a superordinate identity – such as Canadian. To test this hypothesis, individuals will be exposed to a current Canadian political issue as becoming increasingly polarized. A political party or national group identity will be primed. Groups will then be compared on facets such as extremity of position, perception of bias in the other side, open-mindedness, and optimism about the future. The ultimate goal of the proposed research is to identify ways in which both actual and perceived polarization can be reduced in the electorate, leading to a more inclusive and cooperative political sphere.

Discipline: Psychology (Honours)

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Craig Blatz