Sunday, April 28, 2013

Just how polarized is the US Congress?

The public is often amazed at Washington's inability to solve problems. Some have attributed that constant impasse to polarization in Congress - with very little overlap in attitudes across the party lines. But is this truly something new or just more media hype?

The data seems to indicate that polarization is definitely sharper now than in the past and is particularly acute in the House of Representatives.

Here is the level of "ideological overlap" twenty years ago:

Source: Credit Suisse

And here it is now (notice the bump on the very right of the Republican Party):

Source: Credit Suisse

The US Senate is also more polarized than in the past but not nearly as strongly as the House. The question of course is whether this polarization level is unique or have the parties been this divided in the past? According to, the polarization is at record levels since at least the end of the Civil War - even in the Senate.

Furthermore, the number of so-called "moderates" in each party is near record lows.

Those looking for a quick resolution to the pressing budged problems, don't bet on it. Washington's perpetual impasse is here to stay.
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