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Op/ed: Our Early Bonds May Explain Political Divides

Psychology Study Finds Attachment, State Culture Predict Bipartisanship in Congress

By Paul Hanges and Jon Gruda

illustration of handshake by red and blue team politicians

Research forthcoming in the journal Personality and Individual Differences and co-authored by a UMD psycholgist finds that politicians are more likely to engage in bipartisan voting if their home state is more tolerant of deviations from cultural norms.

Illustration by Adobe Stock

Members of Congress are carrying more than their briefcases into the Capitol building when it’s time to vote. New research from University of Maryland psychology Professor Paul Hanges and colleagues at Catholic University of Portugal, Maynooth University in Ireland and Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece found they’re also carrying the behavioral baggage of past relationship attachments as well as cultural contexts.

In a new essay in Psychology Today, Hanges and co-author Jon Gruda from Catholic University explain how these factors can predict the bipartisan voting behavior of politicians in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

In our recent study, we looked at more than 600 politicians and how they use Twitter to see if they're more about sticking with their group or open to working with others.

Turns out, the ones who are scared of being left out (i.e., the anxious-attached) don't like to go against their party. But those who quickly disregard their party’s norms and expectations (i.e., the avoidant-attached) are more likely to work with everyone. Not surprisingly, the third group is in the middle (i.e., securely attached); they keep their connections with their group while striking out to form new partnerships.

Read the rest in Psychology Today.



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