Changing Constituencies and Rising Polarization in the Congress

Three Essays

by Jesse Sussell

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Three essays on changing constituencies and rising polarization in the Congress. The first empirically examines the so-called "Big Sort hypothesis" — the notion that in recent years, liberal and conservative Americans have become increasingly spatially isolated from one another. The second addresses two questions: First, whether over the last 40 years the spatial distribution of the American electorate has become more geographically clustered with respect to party voting and socioeconomic attributes, and second whether this sorting process has contributed to rising polarization in the US House of Representatives. The third considers gridlock itself as a problem to be solved and addresses the question of how it might be lessened.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    New Support for the Big Sort Hypothesis: An Assessment of Partisan Geographic Sorting in California, 1992-2010

  • Chapter Two

    Yes to the Big Sort: Changing Constituencies as a Driver of Rising Polarization in the US House of Representatives

  • Chapter Three

    Reducing Party Polarization in the House of Representatives: An Investigation of Geographically-Oriented Approaches

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This document was submitted as a dissertation in March 2014 in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the doctoral degree in public policy analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. The faculty committee that supervised and approved the dissertation consisted of James Thomson (Chair), Win Boerckel, and Jeff Stonecash.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation dissertation series. Pardee RAND dissertations are produced by graduate fellows of the Pardee RAND Graduate School, the world's leading producer of Ph.D.'s in policy analysis. The dissertations are supervised, reviewed, and approved by a Pardee RAND faculty committee overseeing each dissertation.

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