Though I'm not a native English speaker I've still a rough idea what hyper-partisanship is. But that's not good enough: I'm looking for some kind of definition - and not only a primitive dictionary definition.

Background: In public and the media there's a long list of complaints about the current trend of hyper-partisanship. As long as I don't have an (ideally political science-based) definition, It's hard to analyze this matter more thoroughly. (I would rather try to follow a more scientific definition than my own intuition.)

Does s.o. know some precise definition of the concept of "hyper-partisanship"? Where does it begin, where does it end? What distinguishes partisanship from hyper-partisanship? If you don't know about a definition, what is your opinion?

Feel free to tell me your thoughts as this (hyper)partisanship is a very important aspect of the time we live in.


3 Answers 3


Let's define terms, then contextualize terms. Most misunderstanding come from how we define our terms. So let's define them.


In U.S. politics, a partisan is a committed member of a political party or political coalitions. In multi-party systems, the term is used for politicians who strongly support their party's policies and are reluctant to compromise with their political opponents



highly excited

So if we throw those definition together it would look something like:

In U.S. politics, a partisan is a committed member of a political party or political coalitions. In multi-party systems, the term is used for politicians who absolutely support their party's policies and are unwillling to compromise with their political opponents

Emphasis mine on replacing words.

So there's a couple examples. I'll ask that you forgive my examples if they seem biased towards one party. I don't intend to target anyone, they are just solid examples.

So the first example of this sort of thing is the Republican Party vowing to stop President Elect (at the time) Obama at all costs:

Here’s John Boehner, the likely speaker if Republicans take the House, offering his plans for Obama’s agenda: “We're going to do everything — and I mean everything we can do — to kill it, stop it, slow it down, whatever we can.

A key feature of this sort of this position is zero compromise. That in the end, it's not about compromise or building solid policy for all citizens, but to literally obstruct an opponent at all costs.

Again we see this with Merrick B. Garland, Obama's pick:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared any appointment by the sitting president to be null and void. He said the next Supreme Court justice should be chosen by the next president — to be elected later that year.

Again, refusal to compromise.

These are just two examples, but they're excellent examples of hyper-partisanship.

  • The answer is full of opinion other than defining what partisan and hyper mean the example are grossly out of context since they are responses to the opposition's refusal to compromise Oct 23, 2018 at 12:51
  • @ShinEmperor: Thank you, that was helpful. a) Do you know of any scientific sources that backup your explanations/definitions of partisanship/hyper-partisanship? b) An opinion-question, leading a bit away of my main question: What do you think is the reason for this development and c) what is your personal understanding of the motives behind this behavior? At everybody: Please feel free to join the discussion as I think your thoughts on all this might provide interesting perspectives in that matter.
    – Regis May
    Oct 23, 2018 at 13:18
  • @RegisMay a) I would suggest following the work over at fivethirtyeight.com. Their focus is on statistical analysis and they cover things like "Why does partisanship exist." b) Economics. Globalization didn't deliver on the promised prosperity, which left a lot of people behind. Which in turn, has lead to a crisis in institutional trust.c) Personally, I think the country need to do better about helping people who don't have easy access to opportunity. (Like helping both young black men being incarcerated and young white folks suffering from the opoid crisis.) Oct 25, 2018 at 13:40
  • @RegisMay This is a question and answer site, not a discussion site. Some of your follow-on questions could be asked here as new questions, although you need to consider how to avoid them being opinion based. For instance, you could ask what the political forces driving the increased partisanship are. Oct 26, 2018 at 21:29

It is a term from politics, or at best political science, not from hard science where there may be a single accepted definition. As I understand it, hyper-partisanship means

  • a political climate (as opposed to a single person or event)
  • where almost all significant political decisions
  • are made on a partisan basis and not on their merits.

It means that the first question legislators ask is "which party benefits" and not "is the proposal right or wrong."

Note that the US, with her two-party, majority-based system has had unusually weak parties compared to some other democracies for quite some time. Since there are just two parties, plus a few independents and third-party candidates, building political compromise has to happen in a bi-partisan manner. With proportional representation, there tend to be more, smaller, but more coherent parties, and voting or campaigning against the party line can get one thrown out of the party and also out of the party caucus in parliament.

  • "... are made on a partisan bias and not on their merits" is an interesting perspective.
    – Regis May
    Oct 23, 2018 at 13:00
  • 1
    "...are made on a partisan basis and not on their merits" is a way of saying, "would I lose re-election if I did this?" ...and that is a way of saying, "would my constituents like it if I did this?" What kind of government-system is that, folks? Oct 23, 2018 at 15:37
  • @elliotsvensson, it might not be about re-election and constituents as much as "I am a member of this or that party, I must stand firmly behind the Minority/Majority Leader or the others will steamroller us." What voters would one ask, anyway? Those who swear they voted for your last time? Those who scream loudest, constituents or not? Any constituent, even those statistically unlikely to get out and vote?
    – o.m.
    Oct 23, 2018 at 16:17
  • @o.m. I'm presuming that an elected official remembers well-enough his or her own party planks and campaign promises to grasp which deviations would break faith with the constituents, whoever they are, who elected him or her. Oct 23, 2018 at 16:20

I think that hyper-partisanship is characterized for the public by a difference in language, such that a person who is accustomed to talking and reading in one sphere will be recognizably out-of-place in the other sphere.

Some common language conflicts were described in a 2016 article in The Atlantic, reporting:

Democrats discuss “comprehensive health reform,” “estate taxes,” “undocumented workers,” and “tax breaks for the wealthy,” while Republicans insist on a “Washington takeover of health care,” “death taxes,” “illegal aliens,” and “tax reform.”


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