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Seeing the Other Side: Reducing Political Partisanship via Self-Affirmation in the 2008 Presidential Election


  • This research was supported by a grant from the University of California All-Campus Consortium on Research for Diversity, awarded to Kevin Binning, and by National Science Foundation Grant #0720429, awarded to David Sherman. The authors thank David Banse for his able research assistance.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Kevin Binning, Stanford Graduate School of Business, 518 Memorial Way, Stanford, CA 94305–5015 [e-mail:].


The 2008 presidential election brought the partisan divide between U.S. Republicans and Democrats to the forefront. In such contested situations, people who identify with the parties and their candidates experience pressure to adhere to their group's core beliefs and behaviors. This research hypothesized that providing individuals a chance to affirm their self-integrity would relieve some of this pressure and facilitate greater openness to the opposition. In the 2 days prior to the 2008 election, Democrats (N= 50) and Republicans (N= 60) who affirmed their self-integrity by writing about important personal values (versus those who did not self-affirm) were less driven by partisan preferences in their evaluations of Barack Obama's debate performance, more favorable to opposition candidates, and more generally open to alternative viewpoints. Additionally, 10 days after the election, affirmed Republicans thought Obama would make a better president than did nonaffirmed Republicans. Discussion centers on how motivational factors can exacerbate—and attenuate—the divide between “red” and “blue” America.