Author (Your Name)

Emma West, Colby CollegeFollow

Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Government Dept.


Daniel Shea

Second Advisor

Nicholas Jacobs


“Negative partisanship,” most basically defined as the phenomenon whereby Americans largely align against one party instead of affiliating with the other, has grave implications for democracy: it has already affected productivity in Congress, the acceptance (rather, lack thereof) of election results (e.g. 2016), and watered down the importance of ideology in American politics. Parsing the independent variables that influence negative partisanship is vital in combating its detrimental effects, and this project proposes satire as a possibility. An analytical history of both topics is explored. Interestingly, psychological mechanisms for interpreting satire and the out-party share many similarities in mechanisms of subjective interpretation (e.g. self-reinforcement, intertextuality, and motivated reasoning). The importance of research investigating a link between satire and negative partisanship is heightened by the money-driven algorithmic realities that power contemporary media consumption. An analysis of the cross-sectional, experimental survey (N=2,839) conducted in this study revealed surprising and complicated demographic trends linking satire and negative partisanship. Most demographics reported higher levels of negative partisan attitudes when exposed to out-party satirical stimuli, and older female Democrats were the most “provoked” in this way. Interpretive theories are briefly explored, including low-exposure “misinterpretations” and high-exposure “echo chambers.” The study then discusses recommendations and implications, exploring the responsibilities of both producers and consumers of satire as well as the political entities that represent them.


negative partisanship, satire, misinformation, governance