Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 18 > Issue 2

Polarization and Group Cooperation

Andrea Robbett, Department of Economics, Middlebury College, USA, arobbett@middlebury.edu , Peter Hans Matthews, Department of Economics, Middlebury College, USA, and Department of Economics, Aalto University School of Business and Helsinki, Graduate School of Economics, Finland, pmatthew@middlebury.edu
Suggested Citation
Andrea Robbett and Peter Hans Matthews (2023), "Polarization and Group Cooperation", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 18: No. 2, pp 215-241. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00021036

Publication Date: 11 Apr 2023
© 2023 A. Robbett and P. H. Matthews
Political economy,  Experimental economics,  Collective action
Social dilemmaspolitical polarizationaffective polarizationpublic goodscooperationexperimental political scienceexperimental economics


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In this article:
Experimental Design 


Does increased partisanship undermine the ability of politically heterogeneous groups to function and cooperate in apolitical settings? On the eve of the 2020 U.S. elections, we conducted an online experiment in which Democrats and Republicans played repeated public goods games, both with and without punishment. Absent punishment, mixed-party groups are less cooperative and efficient than homogeneous groups. However, polarized groups fare no worse than those in which political affiliations are unknown. We find no differences in cooperation across groups that are able to punish free-riding behavior. Thus, knowing that one is in a group with like-minded individuals can serve as a substitute for an enforcement mechanism, but polarized groups can, at some efficiency cost, achieve similar contributions when sanctions are possible.