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Polarization, Partisan Sorting, and the Politics of Education

Drawing on 16 years of nationally representative survey data from 2007-2022, I demonstrate that partisan gaps—the average differences in public opinion between Democrats and Republicans—have widened on many education issues. The growth of the partisan gaps consistently exceeds what would be expected due to the changing demographic compositions of the parties alone. In most cases, widening partisan gaps are primarily attributable to sorting (the alignment of one’s party affiliation and one’s issue positions) rather than polarization (increasing support for more extreme positions relative to more moderate positions). However, polarization is also increasing on some of the most divisive issues. Among those who are sorting, individuals are overwhelmingly switching their issues positions to align with their party affiliations rather than switching their party affiliations to align with their issue positions.

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EdWorkingPaper suggested citation:

Houston, David M.. (). Polarization, Partisan Sorting, and the Politics of Education. (EdWorkingPaper: 22-690). Retrieved from Annenberg Institute at Brown University:

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