Political Partisanship: In Three Stunning Charts

Political Partisanship: In Three Stunning Charts
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While most everyone has been saying it, science now supports it: Political partisanship is the worst it's been in over half a century, and it's increasing at an exponential rate.

That's the finding of an interdisciplinary group of academics who analyzed roll call votes to statistically model partisanship in the U.S. House of Representatives dating back to 1949. Their results, published in PLoS ONE, are embodied in three stunning charts.

The first shows the number and proportion of times that representatives from different parties and the same party vote the same way. Notice how the proportion of cross-party pairs and same-party pairs used to overlap, and now they hardly do. The series of graphs shows that fewer and fewer representatives of different parties vote together, but the few that do cross party lines are doing so more often.


The second graph's message is transparent enough. Members of opposite parties are voting in contrasting ways on roll call votes more than ever, and the disagreements appear to be increasing exponentially, roughly 5% every year according to the researchers.

The third chart clusters Republican (red) and Democrat (blue) representatives on a spectrum of ideology (defined by how often they vote with the rest of their party) then links opposite party members according to their votes together. The links grow larger and darker the more often representatives vote across party lines. The graphs' evolution over time is simply remarkable.


The researchers also found -- unsurprisingly -- that partisanship correlates with failure to introduce and pass legislation.

Things aren't looking good for bipartisanship in the United States of America. Compromise is what made our country great, yet it seems to be something we've forgotten how to do. One can't help but wonder when, or if, we'll remember.

Source: Andris C, Lee D, Hamilton MJ, Martino M, Gunning CE, et al. (2015) The Rise of Partisanship and Super-Cooperators in the U.S. House of Representatives. PLoS ONE 10(4): e0123507. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0123507

(AP photo)

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