How Does within-Couple Political Disagreements Affect Marital Quality in Time of Political Polarization? Evidence from Hong Kong

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The political polarization of the public has become a major concern in many societies. The process of polarization has strengthened partisan identities and increased the prejudice and anger directed against members of opposing groups. How this process has affected familial relationships is largely unexplored. Hong Kong provides an interesting and important case study for investigating the relationship between political polarization and marital relations. Public opinion polls show increasing political polarization among the public - citizens with different political orientations have developed a strong sense of antagonism and hatred toward members of out-groups. Given that political polarization is now a major issue in the city, how do married couples with different political orientations maintain their marriages and interact with each other in this highly polarized political context is an important question for family sociologists.

In this study, I ask the following three research questions: 1) How common are political disagreements between husbands and wives? 2) How are differences in political orientations associated with marital quality? And 3) Under what conditions are political disagreements more strongly related to marital quality?

This study collects and analyses dyad-level data of 985 heterosexual married couples (985 husbands and 985 wives) with a representative household survey in Hong Kong that measures political attitudes, party identifications and marital dynamics. The data reveal that most but not all husbands and wives are similar in terms of political attitudes and identities. Regression analyses confirmed that political disagreements are significantly associated with marital conflict and a lower level of marital satisfaction. Furthermore, the relationship between political disagreement and marital satisfaction is exacerbated by affective polarization - the feeling of hatred toward political out-groups is a significant moderator of the relationship. These findings have important theoretical implications for understanding family relations in the context of political polarization.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2023
EventXX ISA World Congress of Sociology - Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 25 Jun 20231 Jul 2023 (Conference website) (Conference programme)


ConferenceXX ISA World Congress of Sociology
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