As of 2015, California Still Had the Nation’s Most Polarized Legislature

Political scientists Boris Shor and Nolan McCarty regularly track polarization in each state’s legislature. Their latest data, from legislative sessions of 2015-2016, shows that California continues to have the nation’s most polarized legislature. See the results here for each state. Washington, the other top-two state, has the nation’s fifth most polarized legislature. Thanks to Rob Richie for the link.


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As of 2015, California Still Had the Nation’s Most Polarized Legislature — 10 Comments

  1. John,

    If you follow the link in Richard’s blog entry, at the bottom there is a link to “June 2015 Update to Shor-McCarty State Legislatures Data”, that in turn links to “state level data here”, which in turn has a link to a .pdf with an academic paper.

    Based on roll call votes, an individual legislator can be assigned a multi-dimensional score, that can apparently be reduced to a two-dimensional score where the primary dimension is a left-right ideology. I don’t know how this is done, but legislators who tend to vote together will have scores that are close together.

    This could let you compare two legislators in Michigan, but not compare a Michigan legislator to one in Arizona, since there were different votes and issues. What the authors did was develop an interstate score based on responses by legislative candidates to an issues survey (about 30% of legislators responded). Then other legislators can be placed relative to these interstate scores (e.g. if you are a legislator who votes the same way as a legislator who answered the survey in a certain way, you would have the same score, even though you had not taken the survey.

    The polarization score is based on the median score for a Democratic legislator, and the median score for a Republican legislator. Polarization is the distance between the two.

    California Democrats are more left-wing than any other Democrats, and California Republicans are a bit more right-wing than Republicans in most states which gives a high level of polarization. On the other hand, Louisiana Democrats are more right-wing than Democrats from most states, almost midway between national Democrats and Republicans. Rhode Island Republicans and Louisiana Democrats are similar ideologically. So Louisiana and Rhode Island have the lowest polarization in part because the minority part legislators are relatively moderate. California has high polarization because (comparatively speaking) Democratic legislators are extremely left-wing.

    Now let’s imagine that legislators are representative of their constituents. Then the polarization in the legislature is simply of polarization among constituents. Imagine that two individuals were selected from the voter rolls, one from Grand Rapids and one from Detroit. Knowing only that information, you can predict which one likely has more left wing political views. If you could bet on 100 pairs of voters from the two cities, and be given even odds, you could make money betting as much as you could, even if a bookie were taking a 10% cut. Legislators from the two areas would also likely have similar viewpoints to their constituents.

    What Richard Winger seems to be implying is that legislators in California are not representative of their constituents, or even that Top 2 has caused them to become less representative.

  2. John,

    Let’s assume that the methodology of assigning an ideological index based on Yes/No responses is valid. Instead of voting for a candidate, a voter could simply answer a series of questions.

    Candidates would do the same, and then candidates could be matched to voters based on their closeness of their ideology to that of the voters. The spectrum of representatives ideology would match the spectrum of individual ideology.

  3. Jim, there’s a site that does that: Isidewith.com unfortunately most voters don’t bother educating themselves on issues or where the candidates stand on them

  4. To discover a striving with a major data file as well. My partner and i mailed that along with duplicated it over to locate it failed to do the job. I aren’t remove the crucial My partner and i additional. Perhaps you have possessed almost any luck using ssh tips?

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