The persistent gridlock in Congress on a wide-range of pressing problems, cries out for explanation. A common answer is that members of Congress are simply reflecting their own constituents in a country deeply divided between “red” and “blue” districts, polarized on the issues that Congress is failing to face. This seems intuitively valid given that we are supposed to be a democracy.

A recent study by Voice of the People and the Program for Public Consultation, affiliated with the University of Maryland, sought to find out how often most people in red districts (represented by a Republican) disagreed with those in blue districts (represented by a Democrat) on questions about what the government should do. The answer was: not very often. 

The study analyzed 388 poll questions that asked what the government should do in regard to a wide range of policy issues, including hot button issues like healthcare, immigration and abortion. These came from numerous sources including the National Election Studies, Pew, major media outlets, and others. Respondents were divided based on whether they lived in blue or red districts. In a small minority of cases data was only available to allow the division into red or blue states.

If the polarization in Congress is driven by polarization between the constituencies they represent you would expect the majorities or pluralities in red and blue districts and states to be at odds with each other quite often. But the number of cases in which this was the case was just 14 out of the 388 questions—less than 4 percent of the time.

To read the full op-ed, click here.

By Steven Kull, president and founder of Voice Of the People

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Photo by Ron Cogswell via flickr