What The Yankees-Red Sox Rivalry Can Teach Us About Political Polarization

From FiveThirtyEight:

A few weeks ago, FiveThirtyEight fielded a SurveyMonkey poll to baseball fans in the Northeast. In the survey,1 I asked 1,071 people which baseball team they supported (if any), how strongly they supported the team, and then I asked them this:

How upset would you feel if you had a son or daughter who married a Boston Red Sox/New York Yankees/New York Mets/Philadelphia Phillies fan?

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Red Sox fans were asked about marriages to Yankees fans and vice versa. Mets and Phillies fans were asked about each other.2

I asked this question about baseball because I think it can help us understand something important about politics.

Since 1960, survey researchers have asked Americans if they would be upset if they had a son or daughter marry someone of the other political party. Researchers have asked this question to gauge the extent that politics affects personal relationships and nonpolitical aspects of our lives. In 1960, about 5 percent of Democrats and Republicans said they would be upset. In 2008, when political scientists Shanto Iyengar, Gaurav Sood and Yphtach Lelkes revived the question, 27 percent of Republicans and 20 percent of Democrats said they would be somewhat or very upset about a child marrying someone of the other party. These authors, as well as researchers at Pew Research Center, have asked the question several times since 2008, with similar results.

What do we make of so many Democrats and Republicans now saying they would be upset about their kids marrying outside their party? After all, plenty of Democrats marry Republicans. Do a quarter of partisans genuinely feel so strongly? You might get that impression from public opinion surveys in which respondents report that they don’t like people in the other …

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