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Are Changing Constituencies Driving Rising Polarization in the U.S. House of Representatives?

Are Changing Constituencies Driving Rising Polarization in the U.S. House of Representatives?

Jesse Sussell
James A. Thomson
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: RAND Corporation
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  • Book Info
    Are Changing Constituencies Driving Rising Polarization in the U.S. House of Representatives?
    Book Description:

    This report addresses two questions: first, whether the spatial distribution of the American electorate has become more geographically clustered over the last 40 years with respect to party voting and socioeconomic attributes; and second, whether this clustering process has contributed to rising polarization in the U.S. House of Representatives.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-8864-2
    Subjects: Population Studies, Statistics, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  4. Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  6. Summary
    (pp. xi-xii)
  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  8. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  9. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-2)

    Virtually all observers of American politics agree that there is a high degree of polarization between the Democratic and Republican parties in Congress. There is also a general consensus that this interparty polarization has been increasing over time: The ideological gap separating the parties of Tip O’Neill and Gerald Ford in the 1970s may have been large, but it was smaller than the distance between the Clinton Democrats and the Gingrich Republicans in the 1990s, and smaller still than the gulf between the parties of Obama and Boehner today. There is much less consensus, however, as to the causes of...

  10. CHAPTER TWO Is Partisan Geographic Clustering of the American Electorate a Reality?
    (pp. 3-12)

    A number of authors have addressed the question of how the American electorate has changed in recent decades, and the subject remains a matter of some dispute. Yet books with starkly different titles that imply starkly different conclusions—Morris Fiorina’sCulture War? The Myth of a Polarized America, and Alan Abramowitz’sThe Disappearing Center: Engaged Citizens, Polarization, and American Democracy—seem to agree on three key points: First, the electorate as a whole is not as polarized as Congress; second, the politically engaged portion of the electorate is more polarized than the voting population as a whole; and third, polarization...

  11. CHAPTER THREE Is Geographic Clustering of Voters Driving Rising Polarization in Congress?
    (pp. 13-24)

    Before beginning our discussion of the relationship between clustering of people (and therefore of voters) and polarization in Congress, we must first decide how to measure the latter construct. In the abstract, one way to think about congressional polarization is as the ideological “distance” between the average Democratic member of Congress and the average Republican. If we are interested in estimating polarization in this way, we must decide on a quantitative measure of individual legislators’ ideologies. Imagine a score in which legislators are assigned a value according to how liberal or conservative they are, with 0 being perfectly liberal and...

  12. CHAPTER FOUR Discussion and Conclusion
    (pp. 25-26)

    It is well known that place and politics are correlated in the United States. Large cities in general and coastal metropolises in particular are generally liberal bastions, for example, while the South as a whole is more conservative than the rest of the country. Because this is true of our electorate, and because voters elect representatives who share their ideologies, it is also true of our legislators. Members from liberal places (like California Democrat Nancy Pelosi) are themselves liberal, and members from conservative places (like Idaho Republican Raul Labrador) are themselves conservative. In this report, we attempt to address two...

  13. APPENDIX Notes and Technical Methods
    (pp. 27-44)
  14. References
    (pp. 45-46)