Religious Republicans and Diverse Democrats: Asymmetric Polarisation and the Politics of Abortion in the United States
Political polarisation has become a central feature of the U.S. political landscape. In recent years, much work has been done to plot trends in polarisation and to theorise why it is occurring. Several key explanations of polarisation can be identified in the scholarly literature, four of which will be referenced in this work: elite polarisation, partisan sorting, the power of identity and the role of the media. On their own these explanations do not provide a complete picture of polarisation in the American political landscape. Combined these explanations provide useful insight into how political polarisation emerged and has continued to manifest in the U.S. political landscape. These perspectives often ignore, however, evidence that the causes of polarisation are unevenly distributed between the two major parties. This phenomenon has been usefully described as asymmetric polarisation. This project endeavours to contribute to and extend existing research by analysing this generalised notion of asymmetric polarisation within the context of a particularly salient political issue – abortion. While existing explanations of political polarisation provide insight into the continued salience of the issue, it is the characterisations of the Republicans as “the vehicle of a conservative ideological movement” and Democrats as “a coalition of social groups” which provide the greatest insight into the asymmetric nature of U.S. polarisation today (Grossmann & Hopkins 2016, p. 14).