BBL Talk: Affective Polarization and Support for Democratic Institutions
Flavia Batista, Carolina F.T. Batista, and Ernesto Calvo
Title: Affective Polarization and Support for Democratic Institutions: Evidence from Survey Experiments in Brazil, Chile, and Colombia
Abstract: We examine the relationship between partisan social media messages and voters’ support for democratic institutions. The experiments test whether partisan voters favor dissolving Congress or impeaching the president to advance in-group goals, considering a range of messages on consensual and wedge issues. We hypothesize that incumbent voters and opposition voters are more likely to reduce their support for democratic institutions controlled by out-group members, with opposition respondents more supportive of impeaching the president and government respondents more supportive of dissolving Congress. Partisan messages are expected to increase these effects, weakening those institutions controlled by the out-group party. We implement survey experiments in Chile, Brazil, and Colombia between October 2022 and March 2023. The experiments randomly expose respondents to partisan messages on issues such as inflation, abortion, crime, and protests. Inter-party differences conform to expectations, with opposition voters reporting higher preferences for impeaching the president and government supporters reporting higher preferences for dissolving Congress. However, we find no consistent social media effect. Incumbent and opposition voters support undemocratic policies that align with in-group goals, yet the effect does not increase with exposure to partisan social media messages on wedge issues.
Carolina Batista is a Ph.D. student in Government and Politics at the University of Maryland. She holds a Masters’ degree in International Policy Analysis from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. At UMD, Carolina is a member of the Interdisciplinary Laboratory of Computational Social Science (iLCSS) and the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Center (LACS). Her main research interests rely on computational methods, as well as political behavior, democracy, polarization, and social justice in Latin America.
Flávia Batista is a second-year Ph.D. student at the Government and Politics department at the University of Maryland, College Park, majoring in Comparative Politics and Political Methodology. At UMD, Flavia is a member of the Interdisciplinary Laboratory of Computational Social Science (iLCSS) and the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Center (LASC). She holds a B.A. in International Relations from the University of Brasilia, Brazil, and an M.A. in Brazilian Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Flávia’s primary research interests include elections, electoral campaigns, disinformation, and democratic backsliding.
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