Evidence of Conflict Extension in Partisans’ Evaluations of People and Inanimate Objects

Published date01 March 2020
Date01 March 2020
Subject MatterArticles
American Politics Research
2020, Vol. 48(2) 275 –285
© The Author(s) 2019
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1532673X19858002
In September 2016, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin
Kaepernick initiated a series of controversial protests dur-
ing the National Anthem by players in the National Football
League aimed at drawing attention to the ways that people
of color are mistreated by law enforcement officials.
President Barack Obama and other prominent Democrats
voiced support for Kaepernick. A year later, President
Donald Trump sharply criticized the protests (Mather,
2019), as did several other salient Republicans. It is no
surprise then, that when Nike began an advertising cam-
paign in September 2018 featuring Kaepernick for the 30th
anniversary of its “Just Do It” slogan, the campaign
received a response that was polarized on partisanship.
The actions of political elites encouraged people to associ-
ate the protests and Kaepernick, the perceived leader of
those protests, with the Democratic Party. Thus,
Kaepernick’s role in the Nike advertisement may have
cued people to associate the company with the Democratic
Party. Democrats tended to express support for the ad
while many Republicans found it upsetting. Some
Republican identifiers even posted videos online of them-
selves burning their Nike products and vowing to never
buy anything made by the company ever again.
The above example suggests that, under the right
conditions, partisanship can inform people’s views of
normally nonpartisan entities like Nike. There is strong and
consistent evidence that partisanship influences citizens’
vote choices, evaluations of politicians, expressed policy
preferences, and views of parties (Campbell, Converse,
Miller, & Donald, 1960; Green, Palmquist, & Schickler,
2002). There is also some more recent evidence suggesting
that partisan bias affects interactions among partisans in
their economic behavior (McConnell, Margalit, Malhotra,
& Levendusky, 2018). It further appears to inform both
marriage and personal relationships more generally (Huber
& Malhotra, 2016; Phillips & Carsey, 2013). Nicholson,
Coe, Emory, and Song (2016) even find that partisanship
influences people’s perceptions of the physical attractive-
ness of others. Although previous research focuses on how
partisanship affects evaluations of people, we examine dif-
ferent, but related questions: how does the presence of par-
tisan cues in nonpolitical settings affect citizens’ views of
inanimate objects like places and products? Furthermore,
how similar are the effects of these cues when the objects
being evaluated are inanimate objects relative to when the
objects are people? This line of inquiry is important given
the Nike situation that we describe above, which while
perhaps more salient than is typical, is not unique.1 This
research also builds on prior findings suggesting that
politically relevant attitudes can inform people’s views of
normally nonpolitical objects. For example, Tesler (2016)
858002APRXXX10.1177/1532673X19858002American Politics ResearchBanda et al.
1Texas Tech University, Lubbock, USA
2The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
Corresponding Author:
Kevin K. Banda, Department of Political Science, Texas Tech University,
113 Holden Hall, Boston and Akron Streets, Lubbock, TX 79409, USA.
Email: kevin.banda@ttu.edu
Evidence of Conflict Extension in Partisans’
Evaluations of People and Inanimate Objects
Kevin K. Banda1, Thomas M. Carsey2, and Serge Severenchuk2
Prior research shows that partisan bias affects evaluations of people in nonpolitical settings, but it is unclear to what extent
this bias informs evaluations of objects other than people in similar contexts. This is an important limitation given the
frequency with which brands, locations, and products are associated with parties and political figures. We examine whether
partisan bias influences evaluations of inanimate objects in the same way that it does evaluations of people. The results of
four survey experiments show that partisans evaluate objects linked to the opposing party less favorably than otherwise
identical nonpartisan objects. Moreover, the influence of partisan bias on evaluations of people is comparable in magnitude
to the influence of bias on evaluations of various inanimate objects. We interpret these findings through the lens of conflict
extension theory by suggesting that conflict between partisans has extended from policy-based to social identity-based
conflict even in nonpolitical settings.
conflict extension, partisanship, polarization

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