The transformative and informative nature of elections: Representation, schism, and exit

Amber M. Gaffney, Bryan Sherburne, Justin D. Hackett, David E. Rast, Zachary P. Hohman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


In democratic elections, constituents may view unconventional or non-prototypical candidates as attempting to reshape their national identity in the wrong direction. When a non-prototypical candidate actually steps into a leadership role, the group's consensual view of their prototype may shift to position this new leader as prototypical. This process should be bound in member consensus, evidenced by the leader's successful election. The current work examines American Republicans (N = 297) and Democrats (N = 322) before and after the 2016 US election. We focus on Republicans’ interpretations of their candidate Donald Trump's prototypicality and ability to bolster or subvert their party identity pre-election. Post-election, we examine changes to these processes, related in part to Republicans’ homogenized view of Trump's prototypicality. In comparison, we examine these processes in the Democratic Party. Results suggest that whereas Democrats increased in their desire to leave their party, Republicans decreased in their desire to leave their party, an effect that is related to increasing perceptions of Trump's prototypicality and representation of the Republican Party. These findings have important implications for how the contexts of elections rapidly shape party identity through the election of leaders such as Trump.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-104
Number of pages17
JournalBritish Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019


  • exit
  • group change
  • identity content
  • leadership
  • schism
  • social identity


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