Congratulations, 112th U.S. Congress: You were the most polarized, according to DW-NOMINATE, the method devised by political scientists Keith T. Poole and Howard Rosenthal. The new scores just released confirm what many have already said: there’s a rather significant partisan divide.
The “ideological distance between the parties in Congress grew to record levels between the 111th and 112th Congresses,” the report says. It draws a straightforward conclusion: “It is now safe to say that polarization in Congress has reached an all-time high, exceeding even levels seen during the late nineteenth century.”
Within Congress, the House is unsurprisingly more polarized than the Senate is. A more detailed breakdown from the report:
Both parties have continued their drift away from the ideological center in the 112th Congress: The Democrats to a greater extent in the House, and the Republicans to a greater extent in the Senate. This is not entirely surprising, since most of the Democratic casualties of the 2010 midterm elections were moderate-conservative, Southern “Blue Dog” Democrats, which has produced a more liberal Democratic caucus in the House. The 112th House also included many freshman Tea Party-affiliated members, but the Republican caucus was already very conservative after its ranks dwindled following losses in the 2006 and 2008 Democratic wave elections.
While Congress is polarized, it’s also wildly unpopular. A recent survey found that Americans have higher opinions of cockroaches, head lice, and Nickelback than they do of our legislative branch. Take a bow, everyone.
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