Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the most disliked pair of presidential candidates in modern history, as we’ve been told a thousand times. This will be a dispiriting election, as voters shuffle to the polls with nary a wisp of hope in their hearts, casting their ballots as an act of distaste and disgust, not to elect someone but to stop someone else from being elected, the sure sign of a degraded democracy.
But what’s wrong with that? Is there really anything problematic with making your choice because of the candidate you hate and not the one you love?
Political scientists call this “negative partisanship,” and it’s about more than just one election. In fact, Americans now define their political identities less by which party they feel represents them and more by which party repels them. As Alan Abramowitz and Steven Webster observe, over the last few decades voters have come to feel more and more antipathy toward the other side, even as their affection for their own party has remained stable.