Value Disagreement and Partisan Sorting in the American Mass Public

AuthorDavid J. Ciuk
Published date01 March 2023
Date01 March 2023
Subject MatterArticles
Political Research Quarterly
2023, Vol. 76(1) 6074
© The Author(s) 2022
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/10659129211072558
Value Disagreement and Partisan Sorting
in the American Mass Public
David J. Ciuk
Decades ago, research described American political culture in terms of consensus. Contemporary research, however,
reaches opposite conclusions, arguing that the culture warthat now denes American politics stems from value
disagreements among partisan and ideological groups. What factors are at work in this transition from consensus to
dissensus? This manuscript pulls from two literaturesone on American core political values and another on partisan-
ideological sorting and affective polarizationand argues that the term dissensus best describes value preferences among
individuals whose partisan and ideological identities are aligned. Among others, however, preferences on core political
values are largely in consensus. First, using data from 2006 and 2019 and tting geometric models of value preferences, I
show that strong value disagreements exist primarily among sorted partisans. Next, I explore possible implications of
such alignments and nd that relationships among value preferences, political attitudes, and political behaviors are
signicantly stronger in sorted partisans. I close with a discussion of how theories undergirding affective polarization and
partisan-ideological sorting can help the discipline better understand value conict in the American mass public.
values, partisanship, ideology, partisan-ideological sorting
Psychological theory denes values as ones abstract
conceptions of desirable and undesirable end-states of
human life that guide behavior and choice (Rokeach 1973;
Schwartz 1992). Theory also states that values do not act
in isolationrather, they work in a comparative and
competitive fashion such that it is the relative order of
relevant values that guides human behavior (Schwartz
In essence, political values give shape and
structure to individualsbelief systems, and they dene
the boundaries of legitimateand illegitimateopinions
in society and culture (Wildavsky 1987).
Empirical research at the individual level shows that
peoplesvalue preferences correspond to various attitudes
related to policy (Feldman 1988), social groups (Sagiv
and Schwartz 1995), political action (Borg 1995), as well
as politicians and parties (Knutsen 1995). At the societal
level, values give shape to culture (Abramson and
Inglehart 1995), and more specically, to political cul-
ture (Halman 2007). It is important to note, however, that
core political values are the main focus of this manuscript,
which are a small subset of what psychologists and po-
litical scientists refer to as basic human values (Goren,
Smith and Motta 2020). In short, the inuence of core
political values is thought to be limited to the political
sphere (Feldman 1988;Hurwitz and Pefey 1987)
whereas basic human values operate in all domains of
daily life (e.g., Gardikoitis and Baltzis 2012;Sagiv 2002).
While it may be the case that basic human values give
shape to core political values (Schwartz et al. 2014) and
have a greater impact on political judgments than core
political values (Schwartz, Caprara and Vecchione 2010),
core political values serve as focal pointsto help in-
dividuals understand an otherwise confusing political
environment(Schwartz, Caprara and Vecchione 2010,p.
423). At the societal level, it is argued that core political
values are the foundation upon which political culture is
built (see Jacoby 2014, p. 755). With this being the case,
developing a better understanding of core political values
may help us better understand changes in American po-
litical culture.
Department of Government, Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster,
Corresponding Author:
David J. Ciuk, Department of Government, Franklin & Marshall College,
P.O. Box 3003, Lancaster, PA, USA.

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