Samara Klar, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

University of Arizona

Year of PhD: 2013

City: Tucson, Arizona - 85711

Country: United States

About Me:

Samara Klar, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor at the University of Arizona’s School of Government and Public Policy. She studies how individuals’ personal identities and social surroundings influence their political attitudes and behavior. Her book, Independent Politics, (co-authored with Yanna Krupnikov) was published by Cambridge University Press in 2016. In it, they examine why so many Americans prefer to identify as independent, rather than with a party, and what the broader consequences are for American politics. Her work addresses political behavior and opinion, with a particular emphasis on how social identities and social settings influence people's political choices. Her research appears in lots of different journals in political science, including the American Journal of Political ScienceThe Journal of PoliticsPolitical PsychologyPublic Opinion Quarterly, and many others. Her updated CV is available at

Research Interests

Experimental Research

Public Opinion

Political Communication

Elections, Election Administration, and Voting Behavior

Political Participation

Political Psychology

Independent Voters

Public Opinion

American Political Parties



Identity Politics

Social Identity


Surveys, Opinion Polling

Countries of Interest

United States

My Research:

I study how individuals’ personal identities and social surroundings influence their political attitudes and behavior. Most often, I use experimental methods (in and outside the lab), surveys, and other statistical tools. I received my PhD in Political Science from Northwestern University and also hold degrees in political science from Columbia University and McGill University.My book, Independent Politics, (co-authored with Yanna Krupnikov) was published by Cambridge University Press in 2016. In it, we examine why so many Americans refrain from identifying with a party label and what the broader consequences are for American politics.My research appears in lots of journals, including the American Journal of Political ScienceThe Journal of PoliticsScience, Nature Human Behavior, and many others. This work has received many different awards from the American Political Science Association, the Midwest Political Science Association, and the American Association for Public Opinion Research. My research is supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, Time-sharing Experiments for the Social Sciences, the Social Science Research Council, and other organizations.I  love opportunities to share my work with media and non-academic audiences. I have written about my research in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and for I’ve also worked as an expert consultant on matters relating to polling, political behavior, and campaigns.


Journal Articles:

(2018) . “When Common Identities Decrease Trust: An Experimental Study of Democratic and Republican Women.”, American Journal of Political Science

How does sharing a common gender identity affect the relationship between Democratic and Republican women? Social psychological work suggests that common ingroup identities unite competing factions. After closely examining the conditions upon which the Common Ingroup Identity Model depends, I argue that opposing partisans who share the superordinate identity of being a woman will not reduce their intergroup biases. Instead, I predict that raising the salience of their gender will increase cross-party biases. I support my hypotheses with a nationally representative survey of 3,000 adult women and two survey experiments, each with over 1000 adult women. These findings have direct implications for how women evaluate one another in contentious political settings and, more broadly, for our understanding of when we can and cannot rely upon common identities to bridge the partisan divide.

(2018) “Untangling a Dislike for the Opposing Party from a Dislike of Partisanship.”, Public Opinion Quarterly

Recent scholarship suggests that American partisans dislike other party members so much that partisanship has become more divisive than race. We argue that at least one measure of this “affective polarization” conflates a dislike for members of the other party with a dislike for partisanship in general. The measure asks people how they feel about their child marrying someone from another party. What seems like negative affect toward the other party is, in fact, negative affect toward partisans from either side of the aisle and political discussion in general. Relying on two national experiments, we demonstrate that, although some Americans are becoming more politically polarized, more simply want to avoid talking about politics. In fact, many people do not want their child to marry someone from their own party if that hypothetical in-law were to discuss politics frequently. Our measure provides a more nuanced analysis of how affective polarization can exist alongside weakening partisan identities.

(2017) “The Effect of Network Structure on Preference Formation.”, Journal of Politics

How does network structure influence opinion? Relying on theories of preference formation and social networks, we randomize a sample of adults into networks that vary in structure. In one (a clustered lattice), individuals’ connections tend to be connected to each other; in another (a random network), individuals’ connections tend not to be connected, instead providing access to different regions of the network. We seed messages that reflect competing sides of policy debates in each network: one underdog viewpoint is seeded less often, while a dominant viewpoint is seeded more often. We track their diffusion and find that the random network increases exposure to underdog views, compared with the clustered lattice. Individuals in the random network subsequently learn more about the policy debates and become more sympathetic toward the underdog perspective. This has implications for how less funded information campaigns can strategically target social networks to maximize exposure and change minds.

(2014) "Partisanship in a Social Setting.”, American Journal of Political Science

No factor appears more powerful in explaining how individuals evaluate political information and form political preferences than partisanship. Yet, virtually all work on the effects of partisanship on preference formation neglects the crucial role of social settings. In this study, I examine how social settings can fundamentally change the influence of partisanship on preferences. I demonstrate that, in fact, social settings exert an independent influence over preference formation – one that is even larger than the influence of partisan ambivalence. The central implication of these findings is that, going forward, we cannot fully explore how citizens apply their partisanship in evaluating political information without also accounting for the social settings in which individuals find themselves.

(2014) “A Multidimensional Study of Ideological Preferences and Priorities among the American Public.”, Public Opinion Quarterly

Political ideology is not always best measured along a unidimensional spectrum. With a multidimensional construct, we are better able to understand the complexities of Americans' ideological views. This research note presents new survey data from a nationally representative sample of over 2,000 Americans. The survey asks respondents to place themselves on distinct ideological scales regarding social and economic issues, then to prioritize the importance of these issues. The first of its kind to include both ideological preferences and attitude importance, this survey contributes new insights into the complex dimensionality of ideology. Results reveal a plurality of individuals identifying as conservative on both social and economic issues, and a smaller group that is consistently liberal on both policy spectrums. Eleven percent of respondents self-identify as liberal on one scale and conservative on the other, yet choose to identify as "moderate" on the traditional unidimensional scale. By analyzing an extensive set of attitudinal and behavioral measures-including vote choice in the 2012 presidential election-this research demonstrates that true moderates are substantially different from those who mix both social and economic beliefs. It further shows that the vast majority of Americans place more importance on economic issues than on social issues, which has greater influence over respondents' unidimensional ideological placement as well as their presidential vote choice. This study reveals important consequences of the multidimensional nature of ideology at the mass level.

(2014) . "Identity Importance and Political Engagement among American Independents.", Political Psychology

Political behavior among independents has been documented for decades, yet we are left with limited insight into their political engagement. What, if anything, motivates independents to engage in politics? In this study, I apply psychological theories of attitude importance to explain high variation in political-engagement levels among independents. Using two recent datasets, I find engagement levels are comparable across independents and partisans, yet predictors of their engagement differ substantially. Ideological strength predicts engagement for partisans—but not for independents. Instead, my data show that independents' engagement is best predicted by the importance they place on their independent identity. These data provide evidence that independence is a meaningful political identity and that identity importance is a key to explaining what motivates the independent voter to engage with politics.

(2013) "The Influence of Competing Identity Primes on Political Preferences.”, Journal of Politics

In our increasingly diverse society, most Americans identify with more than one group. These multiple identities often align with conflicting policy choices, such as when a Democratic parent may support increased social services spending from a partisan perspective but may also worry about the increasing national debt as a parent. Given the significance of identity, political elites often work to prime identities that will win over the most supporters. A large literature documents the substantial role such identity priming can play in shaping preferences, but virtually no work considers the reality that identity primes often compete with one another. That is, different groups simultaneously prime different identities that align with their interests. In this article, I explore what makes one identity prime more effective than another. I do so by offering a theory of what types of rhetoric makes for a stronger identity prime (relative to other types of rhetoric). I test my expectations with a unique survey experiment addressing three issues. I find that, in a competitive setting, certain rhetorical techniques dominate and drive the identities people rely on when forming preferences. The results have implications for public opinion and identity in the ever-changing demographic world in which we live.

Books Written:

(2016) Independent Politics: How American Disdain for Parties Leads to Political Inaction, Cambridge University Press

The number of independent voters in America increases each year, yet they remain misunderstood by both media and academics. Media describe independents as pivotal for electoral outcomes. Political scientists conclude that independents are merely 'undercover partisans': people who secretly hold partisan beliefs and are thus politically inconsequential. Both the pundits and the political scientists are wrong, argue the authors. They show that many Americans are becoming embarrassed of their political party. They deny to pollsters, party activists, friends, and even themselves, their true partisanship, instead choosing to go 'undercover' as independents. Independent Politics demonstrates that people intentionally mask their partisan preferences in social situations. Most importantly, breaking with decades of previous research, it argues that independents are highly politically consequential. The same motivations that lead people to identify as independent also diminish their willingness to engage in the types of political action that sustain the grassroots movements of American politics.

Media Appearances:

TV Appearances:

(2020) BBC World News

Discussed the 2020 Presidential Election in the context of coronavirus and protests for racial equality.

(2020) CSPAN Washington Journal

Professor Klar discussed Arizona in the 2020 Presidential Election

(2018) World News TV

Professor Klar discusses the appeal of outsider candidates in American elections.

(2017) PBS Arizona Week

Professor Klar comments on Trump's planned visit to Phoenix

(2016) C-SPAN

Open Phones with Samara Klar Samara Klar talked about her book, Independent Politics: How American Disdain for Parties Leads to Political Inaction, and responded to viewer comments and questions. Professor Klar co-wrote the book with Yanna Krupnikov.

Radio Appearances:

(2020) Minnesota Public Radio with MPR

Professor Klar discussed the 2020 Presidential Election

(2020) CBC Sunday Magazine

Professor Klar discussed the outcome of the 2020 Presidential Election

(2017) Arizona Public Media

"Arizona US Senate Seat: Big Dollars and Names in Play" by Christopher Conover

(2017) NPR

"In America, Every Day Is Independents' Day" by Danielle Kurtzleben

Newspaper Quotes:

(2018) Washington Post

Independent voters like the Trump economy. But is that enough to win their vote?

(2017) New York Times

"The Politics of #HimToo" by Thomas Edsall


"Yes, Trump is an “independent”" by Hans Noel

(2017) Time Magazine

"'Hang in There.' Muslim Senate Candidate Gets Support From Republican Incumbent" by Alana Abramson

(2016) Popular Science

"Arguing About Politics Online Might Not Actually Be A Bad Idea" by Samantha Cole

(2016) The Guardian

"Arizona asks 'the unprecedented': could Democrats sweep the west?" by Maria La Ganga

(2016) Forbes

"Forbes 400 Members Who Crossed The Party Line For Presidential Donations" by Daniela Sirtori-Cortina

(2016) Politico

"Could undecided voters swing the election?" by Steven Shepard

(2016) Vox

"Donald Trump keeps saying the system is rigged against Bernie Sanders. Here's why.." by Tara Golshan


"Why Sanders Does Better With Independents" by Dan Hopkins

(2016) The Conversation

"Super Tuesday sees Trump and Clinton triumph: scholars around the globe react" by Bryan Cranston

(2015) Huffington Post

"In Elizabeth Warren We Trust" by Bob Burnett

(2014) Arizona Daily Star

"How dueling D-M surveys reached vastly different conclusions" by David Wichner

(2013) Time Magazine

"How Politicians Scare Voters to Their Side" by Katy Steinmetz

Blog Posts:

(2016) Washington Post (MonkeyCage)

"There may have been shy Trump supporters after all" by Elizabeth Connors, Samara Klar, and Yanna Krupnikov


"9 media myths about independent voters, debunked" by Samara Klar and Yanna Krupnikov

(2014) Washington Post (MonkeyCage)

"Why people call themselves “independent” even when they aren’t" by Samara Klar and Yanna Krupnikov

(2014) Washington Post (MonkeyCage)

"Independents didn’t decide the midterm election" by Samara Klar and Yanna Krupnikov


(2016) Washington Post

"Trump and Sanders allow partisans to stick with their parties while also rejecting them" by Samara Klar and Yanna Krupniikov

(2016) Washington Post (MonkeyCage)

"Why are so many Democrats and Republicans pretending to be independents?" by John Sides"

(2014) Politico

"Women Fight More Than Men Over Politics" by Samara Klar