Partisan Cleavages in the Importance of Citizenship Rights and Responsibilities


  • *Direct correspondence to Catherine Bolzendahl, Department of Sociology, University of California, Irvine 91697 〈〉. Authors contributed equally to this work. This research was financially supported by the Utrecht University Collaborative Grant Program. The first author gratefully acknowledges the hospitality of the Department of Sociology and the Center for the Study of Democracy of the University of California at Irvine where she was staying as a Visiting Research Fellow during part of this research. The authors will share all coding and data for replication purposes.


Objective. Research indicates partisan polarization on a number of social and moral attitudes. However, it is unclear whether a similar polarization can be found regarding citizenship norms, a question we investigate.

Methods. Using 2004 GSS data, we examine regression results analyzing citizens' beliefs about a wide range of citizenship duties and rights based on their partisan identity.

Results. Democrats and Republicans differ little in regard to many key rights and duties, such as the importance of voting and the right to equal treatment by the government. However, compared to Republicans, Democrats attach more importance to social duties and rights for political participation and for minority groups. Independents are most distinctive, placing much less importance on political duties and social rights of equality and an adequate standard of living, particularly in comparison to Democrats.

Conclusion. The majority of Americans share a common set of citizenship norms. Yet, some differences occur along partisan lines, and Independents hold weaker citizenship norms compared to Republicans and Democrats.