The Dynamics of Social Identity: Evidence from Deliberating Groups


The last three decades have seen increased affective polarization in the American public, as social identification with a political party leads Americans to hate and fear members of the other party. Yet, over the same period, the public‐deliberation movement reports remarkable success in bringing together politically diverse groups of people for substantively rich and mutually respectful discussions of political issues. I argue that deliberative minipublics succeed in an era of heightened partisanship because the deliberative process creates a new object for social identification, the deliberating group itself. Identification with the deliberating group reduces the salience of other social identities, especially partisan social identity, and encourages behaviors consistent with the new identity, such as listening respectfully and compromising. While the process of public deliberation is in many ways extraordinary, these results suggest that scholars should pay more attention to how the effect of social identities on politics is fluid and context dependent as well as how the content of these identities is constructed and reconstructed by political processes.