Advertisement

Public Choice

, Volume 176, Issue 1–2, pp 193–210 | Cite as

Polarized preferences versus polarizing policies

  • Sanford C. Gordon
  • Dimitri Landa
Article

Abstract

Much of contemporary political debate in the United States focuses on the issue of polarization: specifically, its causal antecedents and its consequences for policymaking and political conflict. In this article, we argue that partisan preference polarization—conventionally defined as the difference in the favored policy positions of legislators from the two major parties—is not a sufficient statistic for potential political conflict in national politics . Rather, a well-defined measure of potential conflict must take into account (1) the locations of status quo policies and proposed alternatives; and (2) the shape of underlying utility functions. We propose measures of the likely contentiousness of a given status quo policy and of a proposal to move that policy. We then demonstrate the usefulness of these measures using estimates of utility function and final passage vote parameters on enacted legislation from the 111th US Senate (2009–2011).

Keywords

Polarization Political conflict U.S. Congress 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We thank Catherine Hafer and Howard Rosenthal for numerous clarifying discussions. Gordon gratefully acknowledges the New York University School of Law, where he is a scholar in residence for 2017–2018.

References

  1. Abramowitz, A. (2010). The disappearing center: Engaged citizens, polarization, and american democracy. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Acemoglu D. (2003). Why not a political Coase theorem? Social conflict, commitment, and politics. Journal of Comparative Economics, 31(4), 620–652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barber, M., & McCarty, N. (2013). Causes and consequences of polarization. In N. Persily (Ed.), Solutions to political polarization in America (pp. 15–58). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bednar, J. (2009). The Robust Federation: Principles of Design. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Binder, S. A. (2003). Stalemate: Causes and consequences of legislative gridlock. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
  6. Bonica, A. (2014). Mapping the ideological marketplace. American Journal of Political Science, 58(2), 367–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carroll, R., Hare, C., Lewis, J. B., Lo, J., Poole, K. T., & Rosenthal, H. (2017). Alpha-NOMINATE: Ideal point estimator. R package version.6.Google Scholar
  8. Carroll, R., Lewis, J. B., Lo, J., Poole, K. T., & Rosenthal, H. (2013). The structure of utility in spatial models of voting. American Journal of Political Science, 57(4), 1008–1028.Google Scholar
  9. Clinton, J. D., Jackman, S., & Rivers, D. (2004). The statistical analysis of roll call data. American Political Science Review, 98(2), 355–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Clinton, J. D., & Meirowitz, A. (2001). Agenda constrained legislator ideal points and the spatial voting model. Political Analysis, 9(3), 242–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Crémer, J., & Palfrey, T. R. (2000). Federal mandates by popular demand. Journal of Political Economy, 108(5), 905–927.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Crémer, J., & Palfrey, T. R. (2006). An equilibrium voting model of federal standards with externalities. Journal of Public Economics, 90(10), 2091–2106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Esteban, J., & Ray, D. (1999). Conflict and distribution. Journal of Economic Theory, 87(2), 379–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Esteban, J., & Ray, D. (2008). Polarization, fractionalization and conflict. Journal of Peace Research, 45(2), 163–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Esteban, J.-M., & Ray, D. (1994). On the measurement of polarization. Econometrica, 62(4), 819–851.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Evans, D. (2004). Greasing the wheels: Using pork barrel politics to build majority coalitions in Congress. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fiorina, M. P., & Abrams, S. J. (2009). Disconnect: The breakdown of representation in American politics. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.Google Scholar
  18. Gordon, S. C., & Hafer, C. (2007). Corporate influence and the regulatory mandate. The Journal of Politics, 69(2), 300–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gordon, S. C., & Landa, D. (2017a). Common problems (or, what’s missing from the conventional wisdom on polarization and gridlock). The Journal of Politics, 79(4), 1433–1437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gordon, S. C., & Landa, D. (2017b). The political economy of compensatory federalism. New York: Typescript, New York University.Google Scholar
  21. Groseclose, T., & Snyder, J. M. (1996). Buying supermajorities. The American Political Science Review, 90(2), 303–315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hafer, C., & Landa, D. (2007). Public goods in federal systems. Quarterly Journal of Political Science, 2(3), 253–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Iyengar, S., Sood, G., & Lelkes, Y. (2012). Affect, not ideology: A social identity perspective on polarization. Public Opinion Quarterly, 76(3), 405–431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jenkins, J. A., & Monroe, N. W. (2012). Buying negative agenda control in the U.S. house. American Journal of Political Science, 56(4), 897–912.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Krishna, V., & Serrano, R. (1996). Multilateral bargaining. The Review of Economic Studies, 63(1), 61–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mann, T. E., & Ornstein, N. J. (2012). It’s even worse than it looks. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  27. McCarty, N. (2007). The policy effects of political polarization. In P. Pierson & T. Skocpol (Eds.), The transformation of American politics: Activist government and the rise of conservatism (pp. 223–255). Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  28. McCarty, N., Poole, K. T., & Rosenthal, H. (2016). Polarized America: The dance of ideology and unequal riches. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  29. Peress, M. (2013). Estimating proposal and status quo locations using voting and cosponsorship data. The Journal of Politics, 75(3), 613–631.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Poole, K. T. (2005). Spatial models of parliamentary voting. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Poole, K. T., & Rosenthal, H. (1984). The polarization of american politics. The Journal of Politics, 46(4), 1061–1079.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Poole, K. T., & Rosenthal, H. (1985). A spatial model for legislative roll call analysis. American Journal of Political Science, 29(2), 357–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Poole, K. T., & Rosenthal, H. (2007). Ideology and Congress. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.Google Scholar
  34. Przeworski, A. (1991). Democracy and the market. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Shor, B., & McCarty, N. (2011). The ideological mapping of American legislatures. American Political Science Review, 105(3), 530–551.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sinclair, B. (2006). Party wars: Polarization and the politics of national policy making. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.Google Scholar
  37. Sinclair, B. (2008). Spoiling the sausages? How a polarized congress deliberates and legislates. In P. S. Nivola & D. W. Brady (Eds.), Red and blue nation? Consequences and correction of America’s polarized politics (pp. 55–106). Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
  38. Snyder, J. M. (1991). On buying legislatures. Economics and Politics, 3(2), 93–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Woon, J. (2008). Bill sponsorship in congress: The moderating effect of agenda positions on legislative proposals. The Journal of Politics, 70(1), 201–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.New York UniversityNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations