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Cultivating Conviction or Negotiating Nuance? Assessing the Impact of Associations on Ideological Polarization

Sat, August 12, 2:30 to 3:30pm, Palais des congrès de Montréal, Floor: Level 5, 517B


Within the literature on civil society, scholars often make the distinction between cross-cutting groups and homogeneous ones – bridging associations and bonding associations. While the former are thought to confer benefits for democracy, breeding tolerance, trust, and harmony, the latter are thought to pose a threat as they promote insularity and exclusion. Yet in what cases can exposure to diverse others exacerbate rather than mend division? With this in mind, the following paper evaluates the impact of bridging and bonding associations with regards to ideological polarization. Using logistic regression I evaluate how different patterns of membership influence the move from a moderate ideological position to identifying as an ideological partisan. My preliminary results suggest that those belonging to both bridging and bonding associations are most likely to be ideological partisans. This suggests important limits to some of the democratic efficacy of bridging association. Indeed, among individuals who already harbor ideological convictions, the exposure to diverse ties may only embolden their positions which they ultimately seek to defend. Instead of a having a tempering effect, membership in bridging associations among these individuals may therefore result in a 'backlash' effect.