Angry Politics

Partisan Hatred and Political Polarization among College Students

Stacy G. Ulbig

At a time of political tribalism and ideological purity tests, when surveys tell us that pluralities of the people in each party deem the opposition “downright evil,” it can be hard to remember that cross-party hatred isn’t an inherent feature of partisan politics. But, as this book reminds us, a backward glance—or a quick survey of so many retiring members of Congress—tells us that even in the past decade partisan rancor has grown exponentially. In Angry Politics, Stacy G. Ulbig asks why. Even more to the point, she traces the trend to the place where it all might begin—the college campus, among the youngest segment of the electorate.

A distinguished researcher and scholar of political psychology and public opinion, Ulbig gets right to the heart of the problem—the early manifestation of the incivility pervading contemporary US politics. With an emphasis on undergraduates at four-year universities, she gauges the intensity and effects of partisan animosities on campus, examines the significance of media consumption in forming political attitudes, and considers the possibility that partisan hostility can operate like racial and ethnic animosities in fomenting intolerance for other groups. During the college years, political attitudes are most likely to be mutable; so, as Angry Politics explores the increasing combativeness on campus, it also considers the possibility of forestalling partisan hatred before attitudes harden. Finally, Ulbig finds hope in the very conditions that make college a breeding ground for political ill will. Embracing their responsibility for developing responsible citizens capable of productive political engagement, colleges and universities may well be able to inject more reason, and thus more civility, into future partisan debate.

Angry Politics provides a superb review of our national political polarization. Supported by an abundance of research, both scholarly and popular, Angry Politics explains the causes and consequences of our partisan divide. It is well written, thoroughly researched, and beautifully organized. Current and accessible for readers inside the classroom and out, Angry Politics offers an expansive and meaningful examination of our political polarization and provides optimistic suggestions for ways to bridge our national divide.”

—Alison Dagnes, author of Super Mad at Everything All the Time: Political Media and Our National Anger

“Ulbig has written a very fine book linking our contemporary political polarization to incivility among college students. She demonstrates that our dangerous national divides are in fact rampant within college populations, the pool of future American citizens and leaders. Angry Politics is required reading for anyone interested in how students think about politics and why university faculty and administrators must take heed before this new generation replicates the intolerant, destructive politics of their parents and grandparents.”

—Susan Herbst, university professor of political science and president emerita, University of Connecticut

About the Author

Stacy G. Ulbig is a professor of political science at Sam Houston State University.