João Areal
‘Them’ without ‘us’: negative identities and affective polarization in Brazil

Political Research Exchange, 2022: 4, issue 1, (article no. 2117635) pp.1-25
ISSN: 2474-736X (online)

High levels of hostility between those on opposing sides of politics have led to a burgeoning literature on the concept of affective polarization. Though a globally widespread phenomenon, extant literature has generated theoretical expectations and empirical findings mostly inspired by the United States and Western Europe. By studying the case of Brazil, I argue and show that traditional explanations do not provide satisfactory accounts of affective polarization in contexts where politics is only weakly structured by ideology or partisan attachments. I argue and show that in such contexts the concept of negative political identities can provide a much better explanation for why politics is so divisive. Using both the 2014 and 2018 waves of the Brazilian Electoral Studies (BES) and independently collected survey data (N = 1732), I provide robust empirical findings supporting the primacy of negative political identities over traditional explanations. Negative identification with the out-party/leader has a strong effect on dislike towards out-voters even when controlling for instrumental evaluations of political elites. This paper contributes to the comparative research agenda on affective polarization outside Western contexts, as well as to the study of negative political identities.