Partisan Self-Stereotyping: Testing the Salience Hypothesis in a Prediction of Political Polarization
The goal of this study is to theorize the relationship between the news and political polarization through a lens of group dynamics. Consistent with the salience hypothesis of the category fit and category accessibility interaction, we first articulate when and how news exposure makes news consumers think of themselves as Democrats or Republicans instead of unique individuals. Drawing on group polarization literature, we further hypothesize partisan self-stereotyping—an automatic reaction to partisan identity salience—as a mechanism behind the polarizing effect of partisan conflict-framed news. Two experimental studies provide a consistent pattern of support for our hypotheses. The implications of these findings were discussed in comparison with extant studies testing similar news effects under a different theoretical framework—namely, motivated reasoning.