The 113th Congress? More partisan than the 112th Congress — thanks to Republicans

September 26, 2013

Just in case the ongoing ping-pong match between the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-controlled Senate over funding the government beyond Monday didn't convince you of the political polarization gripping the nation's capital, there's new data that show the two parties are -- surprise! -- getting further and further apart.


Elephants. EPA/FILIP SINGER

The new numbers come courtesy of the VoteView blog, which analyzed the votes cast so far in the 113th Congress -- through the August recess -- to determine the relative polarization of the two parties in the House. (The formula the authors -- UGA Professor Keith Poole and NYU Professor Howard Rosenthal -- used to do this analysis is quite complex.)

Their conclusion? "We find that polarization ticked upwards from 1.09 in the 112th House to 1.11 in the 113th House. This increase is entirely attributable to a change in the House Republican mean from 0.69 to 0.71 on the liberal-conservative dimension."

Put in non-nerd terms: Republicans in Congress continued to grow more ideological over the first eight months of 2013 while Democrats' partisanship stayed relatively steady.

That's in keeping with a long-term polarization trend in the House that began in the early 1980s. Since that time, both parties have grown increasingly more polarized in their votes, but Republicans' polarization numbers have moved up further -- and faster -- than Democrats.

This chart -- again from VoteView -- tells that story over time. (And yes, Republicans are blue and Democrats red in this chart. Don't ask us.)


Image courtesy of Voteview blog

If you're waiting for a return of the olden days of the two parties working together, this chart suggests you better get comfortable because it could be a while.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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Sean Sullivan · September 26, 2013