Study forecasts more polarization in new Congress

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
The 2012 redistricting process will ensure that the House of Representatives remains highly polarized in the new Congress, according to a study released on Monday.

The Bipartisan Policy Center analyzed decades of voting records and concluded that the incoming House will have the lowest number of competitive seats in more than 40 years.

In the 1970s, there were 152 competitive seats, the center found, but that number has slipped to 101.

At the same time, the number of “misaligned” seats -- House districts that voted for one party in a presidential election but were represented by a member of the rival party in Congress -- will likely “dwindle to nearly zero” on Tuesday, the report predicted.

As recently as 1992, 96 House members represented districts that supported presidential candidates from the opposing party. After Tuesday’s balloting, that figure could be as low as two or three.

“The drop in competitive and misaligned seats is likely to produce fewer congressional moderates – from either party,” the report concluded. “Redistricting in the lead-up to the 2012 elections is likely to further the polarization that Americans have seen in Congress.”

Such polarization could make it even more difficult for the newly elected president to reach bipartisan agreements with congressional leaders on a host of thorny issues, said former GOP Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia.

“Redistricting does make for polarization,” said Davis. In districts dominated by one party  “most members now worry about their primaries, … [and] primary voters do not reward compromise.”

It may take an economic “tremor” before the two parties reach agreement on taxes, government spending, and health care, said Davis, who now heads the government-affairs department for Deloitte & Touche.

The connection between redistricting and polarization is a matter of considerable debate among political scientists--if for no other reason than that the Senate, whose members are elected on a statewide basis, is also polarized.

But the center’s report confirmed other studies -- including National Journal’s annual vote ratings -- that have chronicled the withering away of  the ideological center in both chambers of Congress. Redistricting, the center concluded, does “exacerbate the situation.”
Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.