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Keywords:

  • Party identification;
  • social identity theory

Social identity theory holds that individuals derive their self-concept from knowledge of their membership in a group (or groups) and that they place value and emotional significance on that group membership, with resulting perceptual and attitudinal biases. Individuals favor the in-group to which they belong which they define against a relevant out-group. In this study, a partisan social identity scale was used to reinterpret perceptual features of partisanship through the lens of social identity theory. The social identity of political independents was also examined in an effort to explain the anomalous behavior and identity of partisan leaners. Social identity theory provided a viable alternative framework for understanding the common bipolarity of perceptions regarding the two major U.S. political parties. In addition, an independent social identification may, in part, explain the identity of partisan leaners.