“Candidates run on partisan platforms, and people already know how they feel about the parties,” Benjamin said. “But when it comes to ballot initiatives, voters have to engage and consider where they stand on the issue.”
This trend may be good for passing liberal ballot initiatives, but it is alarming for American democracy. As partisanship becomes a defining schism in our social lives, politicians will struggle to convince voters to assess their policy ideas.
According to Ellis, political identities are already beginning to resemble sports fandom or other group memberships. They have less to do with political ideals and more to do with unspoken cultural values and a sense of belonging to a group.
“When we ask people whether they’re conservative or liberal, they’re not talking about the minimum wage or Obamacare,” Ellis said. “They’re talking about things like respecting tradition, eating dinner with the family every night and asking Dad’s permission before proposing to his daughter. It’s about things that express people’s cultural values and give them self-esteem.”