The Dynamics of Social Identity: Evidence from Deliberating Groups

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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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)237-254
Number of pages18
JournalPolitical Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 5 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I am extremely grateful to the RCD jurors, whose time and thoughts allowed me to write this paper. I am also grateful to the RCD organizers for providing access to this project. I thank Chris Karpowitz, Howard Lavine, Joe Soss, Kathy Cramer, Matt Luttig, and Chris Federico for comments on previous versions of this paper as well as Letta Page for editing assistance and Elise Fenton for research assistance. Previous versions of this paper were presented at the Deliberatingon Deliberation Conference at the University of Michigan Center for Bioethics & Social Sciences in Medicine, the American Politics Colloquium at the University of Minnesota, and the 2016 meetings of the American Political Science Association and the Midwest Political Science Association. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to C. Daniel Myers, Department of Political Science, University of Minnesota, 1414 Social Sciences Building, 267 19th Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA. E-mail:

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 International Society of Political Psychology


  • climate change
  • deliberation
  • polarization
  • self-categorization
  • social identity


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