Recently in 04. Polarization Category

Mann and Ornstein's Polarization Solutions


Here are the documents we used in class today, pulled from Chapters 4-7 of It's Even Worse Than It Looks: Solutions for Polarization from Mann and Ornstein

In the News - Guns vs. Video Games


I came across this article today and wanted to share it after our discussion of public opinion last week and parties this week. Thoughts about this question and / or the results?

Poll: 67 Percent Of Republicans Think Video Games Are Bigger Threat Than Guns

Question: What do you think is a bigger safety threat in America: guns or violent video games?

Guns 14%
Video games 67%
Not sure 19%

Discussion Questions - Polarization

  • McCarty discusses the effects of partisan polarization on policy outcomes. What are other effects of polarization?
  • Are there any benefits of polarization?

Parties and the Vote


Political Parties and the Vote

Election after election, Republican and Democratic candidates reap the vote of their party's identifiers. It is relatively rare, in congressional races as well as in the presidential race, for a party nominee to get less than 80 percent of the partisan vote.

"Independents" are less independent than might be assumed. About a third of Americans say they are independents, but about 2/3 say they lean toward one of the parties. Most independents vote in the direction they lean. In the 1970s the number of true independents was larger, and there was a sharp rise in the number of voters who cast a split ticket. Some analysts described this development as a sign of dealignment - a weakening of partisanship.

READ: Political Independents: The Future of Politics?

John Sides on Party Identification and Elections (20:25)


Mandatory Voting

READ: The U.S. Should Require All Citizens to Vote

How does compulsory voting affect the election equation? (6:50)



  • Berman, Larry, and Bruce Allen Murphy. 2001. Approaching Democracy. 3rd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Patterson, Thomas E. 2009. The American Democracy. 9th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

Polarization in Congress


READ: Republican Women 2010 U.S. House Voting Record Most Conservative in History

Polarization declined in both chambers from roughly the beginning of the 20th Century until World War II. It was then fairly stable until the late 1970s and has been increasing steadily over the past 25 years. Congresses 100-112 mark an acceleration of the trend (especially in the House). Note, however, that the acceleration is smooth and does not show a particular jump in polarization induced by the large Republican freshman class elected in 1994. Polarization in the House and Senate is now at the highest level since the end of Reconstruction (


The high level of polarization was primarily a result of Republicans being more polarized than ever before:


Sean Theriault on Party Polarization in Congress (12:48)