Homophily and Acrophily as Drivers of Political Segregation
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Description: Political segregation is a significant social problem, increasing polarization and impeding effective governance. Prior work views the central driver of segregation to be political homophily, the tendency to associate with others with similar political views. We propose that in addition to political homophily, people’s social tie decisions are also driven by political acrophily, the tendency to associate with others with more extreme political views (rather than more moderate). We examine this idea using a paradigm in which participants share emotions and attitudes on political policies, observe others’ responses, and choose which others to affiliate with. In four studies (N = 1235), we found that both liberal and conservative participants’ decisions indicated a tendency for acrophily. We found that participants who viewed peers who expressed more extreme views as more prototypical of their political group also tended to acroophilze more. These studies identify a previously overlooked tendency in political tie formation.