Online intergroup polarization across political fault lines: an integrative review

Ana Maria Bliuc*, Ayoub Bouguettaya, Kallam D. Felise

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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We revisit the construct of political polarization and current distinctions between issue-driven and affective polarization. Based on our review of recent research on polarization from psychology, political science, and communication, we propose to treat polarization as a process that integrates the concepts of social identification (collective self-definition) with ideologically opposed camps - that is, psychological groups based on support or opposition to specific socio-political issues and policies (related to issue-driven polarization), and that of ideological and psychological distancing between groups (related to affective polarization). Furthermore, we discuss the foundations of polarizing groups – and more specifically, the role of conflicting collective narratives about social reality in providing an initial platform for polarization in a technologically networked world. In particular, we highlight the importance of online media in facilitating and enhancing polarization between ideologically opposed camps. As a theoretical contribution, the review provides a more functional conceptualization of polarization that can explain how polarization may occur across partisan fault lines and in domains outside of politics. We conclude with a discussion of new pathways to the study of polarization which this integrative conceptualization opens.

Original languageEnglish
Article number641215
Number of pages15
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a BA/Leverhulme grant (SRG1920\101349).

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2021 Bliuc, Bouguettaya and Felise.


  • affective polarization
  • collective narrative
  • ideologically opposed camps
  • intergroup conflict
  • issue driven polarization
  • social identity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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