Polarization; left-right, up & down

left, right, up, down, polarization, division,

A Quick point…

The term polarization is routinely used in a variety of ways, underscoring the importance of defining the term clearly and distinguishing among types or defining signs of polarization. Broadly, polarization refers to a state in which the opinions, feelings, behaviours, or interests of a group or society become more bimodal and the two modes move further apart. This broad concept can be broken down into more specific types of polarization. 

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1. Ideological or preference polarization refers to the polarization of people’s views about public issues, either across the board or in particular policy areas.  

2. Affective polarization, or negative partisanship, refers to sharpening feelings of animosity between people of different political persuasions work also points to the importance of residential or social polarization, characterized by people becoming increasingly separated into communities or groups that interact with each other less. 

3. When any type of polarization overlaps with party identities, partisan polarization exists. Partisan polarization can also be fueled by partisan warfare—the no-holds-barred approach in which politicians seek above all to expand the power of their party and weaken the other party.

Various studies suggest that polarization leads to the political gridlock and obstructionism, a decline in policy innovation and progress, and even a drop in public support for democracy. Yet while the polarization of US politics and society has been a prevalent phenomenon of American democracy since the 1970s, key questions about the scope, character, and implications of polarization in US foreign policy remain to be fully answered. 

Another body of work has shown how polarization has bred a new generation of congressional foreign policy entrepreneurs, who aim to change US foreign policy as well as their parties’ foreign policy position. In response to congressional polarization, presidents increasingly circumvent a gridlocked legislative branch by exercising executive power unilaterally. Partisan polarization also influences the executive branch appointments, leading presidents to appoint fewer officials from the opposition party to senior positions.

On the whole, foreign policy has not been immune from the rising levels of preference, and affective, social, and partisan polarization that have characterized American politics in recent decades. From the public to members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans have diverged in their views and behaviour on international issues. This rising polarizatioan has had a series of concerning effects, from an increase in US unilateralism to a decline in America’s international cooperation capacity and overseas reputation.

At a time when a variety of policy challenges call out for enhanced international engagement and cooperation, polarization is making it harder for the US to contribute constructively to global problem-solving and international order maintenance.

Yet some key debates about polarization and foreign policy remain unresolved.

(References removed and abridged by me)

Polarization; left-right, up & down

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