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The beliefs and behaviors of U.S. adults are increasingly sorted and polarized along partisan lines. We draw on studies of partisanship and social identity formation to argue that children develop partisanship as a social identity during the political socialization process. For a group of children, their partisan social identity produces an affective (and largely negative) evaluation of the political world. Analyzing survey data collected from 1500+ children ages 6–12 in 2017 and 2018, we show that some children develop a partisan identity as they learn about politics that operates similarly to other social identities like gender and race. Children’s partisanship is associated with negative affective evaluations of politics, particularly leaders of the other political party. Using an innovative measurement tool, we show affective, negative reactions in children’s open-ended responses, including when they are asked to draw a political leader. Other children simply learn about politics without developing partisan identities and thus hold more positive affective evaluations of the political system.

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Lay, J.C.; Holman, M.R.; Greenlee, J.S.; Oxley, Z.M.; Bos, A.L. "Partisanship on the Playground: Expressive Party Politics Among Children", Political Research Quarterly, 76(3), pp. 1249-1264. Copyright © 2023, SAGE. Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications.