The Opposite of Republican: Polarization and Political Categorization


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Two experiments examined the typicality structure of contrasting political categories. In Experiment 1, two separate groups of participants rated the typicality of 15 individuals, including political figures and media personalities, with respect to the categories Democrat or Republican. The relation between the two sets of ratings was negative, linear, and extremely strong, = −.9957. Essentially, one category was treated as a mirror image of the other. Experiment 2 replicated this result, showing some boundary conditions, and extending the result to liberal and conservative categories. The same method was applied to two other pairs of contrasting categories, healthy and junk foods, and male and female jobs. For those categories, the relation between contrasting pairs was weaker and there was less of a direct trade-off between typicality in one category versus typicality in its opposite. The results are discussed in terms of implications for political decision making and reasoning, and conceptual representation.