An Exploratory Comparative Study of Political Group Transitions

Chonu, G. K. (University of Queensland), Louis, W. R. (University of Queensland), Haslam, S. A. (University of Queensland)

In democratic societies, voters may change their support for a party at any election or over a lifetime. Such changes can significantly affect the country’s political direction, which in turn, can impact on its residents’ welfare and international relations. A great deal of research in social psychology has studied group identification and commitment, but what motivates people to abandon their group affiliations, particularly in political contexts, has remained relatively understudied. Qualitative data collected two months before the latest US presidential election from a community sample (N = 197) aged at least 30 years old, examined people’s relationship with the party they supported in the past (before or since they first voted) and now (2016). To understand why and how transitions across political groups happen throughout one’s life, thematic analyses were conducted to compare three groups of people with different political experiences: those who had switched parties (converts), versus those who had lost their party affiliation and did not actively support another party (exiters), versus those who had maintained their support (stayers). Individual-related, party-related and outgroup-related factors are presented and analysed theoretically. Social implications on a national level will be discussed.

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Social Identity and Intergroup Processes