Below the Surface: Federalism and State Party Autonomy in the U.S.

A key assumption coming out of the 2012 presidential election in the U.S. was that polarization of the party system was, once again, increasing dramatically. The 2012 campaign was immediately dubbed the most polarized and partisan yet – a familiar declaration given that 2008, 2004, and 2000 had also been dubbed the most polarized elections of their respective times. Uniquely, though, instead of justifying this declaration solely on the basis of presidential candidates’ positions the platforms themselves were also held up as key evidence. ((See, e.g., NY Times 29.8.2012, 05.09.2012; Washington Times 27.08.2012; Chicago Tribune 27.08.2012, 05.09.2012.)) The question, then, is the extent to which the polarization of the 2012 election reported by media sources reflected actual levels of polarization. Using newly coded party manifesto data ((You can find a brief introduction to the manifesto project here))  from the 2012 national level elections, we show that (contrary to popular opinion) polarization levels for the 2012 elections were relatively stable. The overall trend in polarization for the U.S. remains unchanging and the party system is not suffering from great increases in overall polarization levels. Weiterlesen