How political identities are developed and maintained




Ashokkumar, Ashwini

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In a time of heightened partisanship and political polarization, people’s political identities are increasingly producing detrimental outcomes. To address the dangers of extreme political identities, we need to understand how such identities form and are maintained. My overarching goal is to examine how people’s political identities develop and how people protect such identities from threat. Specifically, after an introductory chapter (Chapter 1), I examine how political identities develop via everyday social interactions with fellow group members (Chapter 2), and how people protect their political identities when they are faced with threat from political opponents (Chapters 3) or from fellow partisans (Chapter 4). The dissertation features several distinct methodological approaches. In Chapter 2, I analyze daily conversations occurring within three large online political groups to understand the processes through which people’s political identities develop over time. Chapter 3 examines how people protect their political identities from identity-threatening content on social media. Chapter 4 examines how people strategically respond to reputational threat caused by the moral transgressions of fellow partisans. Each of these chapters is comprised of an article that either has been published at peer-reviewed journals or is in preparation for submission (Ashokkumar & Pennebaker, in prep; Ashokkumar et al., 2020; Ashokkumar et al., 2019). Bringing together insights from the three sets of studies, the dissertation concludes with a discussion of dynamic processes associated with political identities and argues for taking a multimethod approach to studying identity.



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