What is the True Cost of Mass Polarization? : A Study of the Relationship Between Political Polarization and Trust in Political Institutions in the United States
Abstract: Democracy is defined by the element of competition. Elite party competition has become one of the most discussed contemporary developments in the United States. Elected representatives from the main parties have become internally homogeneous, deepening the divide of ideologies between one another. This thesis seeks to establish the relationship between mass partisan polarization and the level of trust in political institutions across the United States. What happens when the public trusts the Elites more than Congress? Elite polarization has divided the masses so deeply in the U.S by electing representatives from the two major parties whom carry ideologies so distinct from another that the public begin change their ways of forming opinions. This thesis acknowledges that there is high elite and mass political polarization in the U.S., which is attributed to the heterogeneity in ideologies across the three main political parties (Democrats, Republicans and Independents) and intra-party homogeneity. The elite partisan theoretical framework expounds the relationship such that the public tends to hold a low level of trust towards the U.S. congress because majority of voters’ partisan motivated decision making is influenced by political endorsements. The implication is that the public is more likely to hold a considerable level of trust towards their political parties as opposed to the U.S. congress.
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