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Abstract

Our attitudes shape our perceptions of the world. Social Identity Theory (SIT) can be used to explain the preference for in-group members who share a political identity and dislike of out-group members who do not. Given the literature using SIT as a framework explaining how political attitudes can bias perceptions, a person’s political identity can impact the evaluation of a candidate. We designed a survey-experiment to test the impact of manipulating the stated party identification of an actual elected official to evaluate the impact on trait evaluations on that candidate. A total of 232 undergraduate students from Georgia State University completed a questionnaire evaluating a political candidate that was either labeled as a Republican, Democratic, or without a label. The results showed a significant difference in the evaluation of the candidate depending on whether or not the participant shared the same party identity. This supports the notion that the party label alone can have an impact on candidate evaluations. The preference for in-group members and distrust of out-group members supports using SIT as a model explaining this phenomenon within a political context. This has broader implications for understanding how citizens form preferences in polarized political contexts.

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