The most important factor in the 2016 presidential election won’t be the candidates but the fact that the American electorate is now divided into two warring partisan camps. Moreover, this blind party allegiance won’t be based on support for “their” candidate, but on fear of the “other “ party – and its members.
That is the conclusion of an essay “The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is the Other Party,” by Alan I. Abramowitz and Steven Webster of Emory University.
“In the seven decades since the end of World War II, Democrats and Republicans have never been as divided as they are today,” they wrote. “Intense dislike of the opposing party and its candidates by supporters of both parties means that party loyalty and straight-ticket voting are much more prevalent than in the past.”
Abramowitz and Webster discount the 10 percent of Americans who identify as independents, concluding that their vote will almost evenly divide between the Democratic and Republican candidates.
Their essay notes that the rise of “negative partisanship” has drastically altered the nature of electoral competition in the United States. This is part of “a vicious cycle of mutually reinforcing elite and mass behavior” and negative views of the other party “encourage political elites to adopt a confrontational approach to governing.”