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Department of Political Science
University of Mississippi

A Tale of Two Democrats: How Authoritarianism Divides the Democratic Party

Authors: Julie Wronski, Alexa Bankert, Karyn Amira, April A. Johnson, Lindsey C. Levitan


Abstract: Authoritarianism has been predominantly used in American politics as a predictor of Republican identification and conservative policy preferences. We argue that this approach has neglected the role authoritarianism plays among Democrats and how it can operate within political parties regardless of their ideological orientation. Drawing from three distinct sets of data, we demonstrate the impact of authoritarianism in the 2016 Democratic Party’s primaries. Authoritarianism consistently predicts differences in primary voting among Democrats, particularly support for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. This effect is robust across various model specifications including controls for ideology, partisan strength, and other predispositions. These results highlight the potential of authoritarianism to shape leadership preferences within the Democratic Party. We advocate for a reconsideration of authoritarianism as a disposition with meaningful consequences for intraparty dynamics and conclude with practical implications regarding the future of the Democratic Party.


University of Chicago Press Journals