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EXPRESS: Political Polarization: Challenges, Opportunities, and Hope for Consumer Welfare, Marketers, and Public Policy
Journal of Public Policy & Marketing  (IF4.5),  Pub Date : 2021-01-12, DOI: 10.1177/0743915621991103
T.J. Weber, Chris Hydock, William Ding, Meryl Gardner, Pradeep Jacob, Naomi Mandel, David E. Sprott, Eric Van Steenburg

Political polarization is a marked political division in the population, characterized by multiple manifestations. We argue that it can impact consumer psychology, which in turn influences marketers, policy makers, and consumer welfare. The present work introduces the construct of political polarization to the marketing literature, and shows how it serves as a novel challenge for various marketing stakeholders. For consumers, we propose that political polarization increases the salience of political identities, alters inter- and intra-group dynamics, and amplifies cognitive biases. These effects negatively impact consumer welfare, including financial welfare, relationships, mental and physical health, and societal interests. For marketers, polarization introduces a challenge to both be more socio-politically engaged while also navigating competing political interests. Polarization also creates new opportunities and challenges for segmentation, targeting, loyalty, and impacts product offerings. For policy makers, political polarization creates policy gaps, impedes the implementation of policy, and obstructs governance. Building from these insights, we consider the drawbacks and overlooked benefits of political polarization, potential remedies, and directions for future research.