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Campus-Only Access for Five (5) Years

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Master of Science (M.S.)

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Political polarization strongly characterizes the political landscape in the United States. The growing political divide in the United States caused by extreme political polarization has serious consequences for political discourse, support for democratic norms, and support for political violence. Due to the severity of the consequences of political polarization, work needs to explore potential strategies to reduce polarization. This project explored whether partisans' attitudes and perceptions of political moderates can predict attitudes toward the political outgroup. Further, whether positive attitudes toward political moderates could reduce affective polarization and increase positive attitudes toward the political opposition. We ran a series of studies that explored the relationship between attitudes toward political moderates and attitudes toward the political outgroup. Data from Study 1a preliminarily suggested that attitudes toward political moderates predict attitudes toward the outgroup by using a nationally representative sample collected from the pre-election Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES; n = ). Study 1b (n=1397) replicated the findings from Study 1a during the 2022 midterm elections to demonstrate the consistency of the pattern of results over the election cycle. Study 2 expanded the analysis of the relationship between attitudes toward political moderates and the political outgroup (n = ) by including a wider variety of attitudinal measures. Study 2 utilized regression analysis and path modeling to demonstrate that perceptions of political moderates as helpful to the ingroup via attitudes towards political moderates predicted attitudes towards the political outgroup. Study 2 also included a manipulation introducing political moderates into the political landscape to study its effect on attitudes toward different political groups. Finally, Study 3 (n = ) experimentally manipulated whether moderates are viewed as political allies and its effect on attitudes toward the political opposition via perceptions of moderates as helpful to the ingroup and attitudes toward political moderates. Additionally, Study 3 explored whether attitudes toward moderates predicted political action by including measures of future political participation, support for anti-democratic norms, and lethal partisanship. Data from these studies inform research on political polarization by suggesting that the inclusion of moderates in the political landscape may have positive consequences of reducing animosity toward the political outgroup, support for anti-democratic norms, and support for political violence.

First Advisor

Linda Isbell

Second Advisor

Gilad Hirschberger

Third Advisor

Kevin Young

Fourth Advisor

Adrian Staub

Available for download on Saturday, February 01, 2025