United States Congress

United States Congress

Negative effects of polarization on the United States Congress include increased gridlock and partisanship at the cost of quality and quantity of passed legislation.[60][64][65][66][67] It also incentivizes stall tactics and closed rules, such as filibusters on non-contentious issues and excluding minority party members from committee deliberations.[4][60][68] These strategies hamper transparency, oversight, and the government’s ability to handle long-term domestic issues, especially those regarding the distribution of benefits.[64] Further, they foster animosity, as majority parties lose bipartisan and legislative coordination trying to expedite legislation to overcome them.[4][67]

Some scholars claim that political polarization is not so pervasive or destructive in influence, contending that partisan agreement is the historical trend in Congress and still frequent in the modern era, including on bills of political importance.[69][70][71] Some studies have found approximately 80% of House bills passed in the modern era to have had support from both parties.[69]

Opinions on polarization’s effects on the public are mixed. Some argue that the growing polarization in government has directly contributed to political polarization in the electorate,[9] but this is not unanimous.[69][72]

Some scholars argue that polarization lowers public interest in politics, party identification and voter turnout.[9] It encourages confrontational dynamics between parties that can lower overall public trust and approval in government.[73], and causes the public to perceive the general political debate as less civil,[9][64] which can alienate voters. More polarized candidates, especially when voters aren’t aware of the increase, also tend to be less representative of the public’s wishes.[9][64][73]

On the other hand, others assert that elite polarization has galvanized the public’s political participation in the United States, citing greater voting and nonvoting participation, engagement and investment in campaigns, and increased positive attitude toward government responsiveness.[73][74] Polarized parties become more ideologically unified, furthering voter knowledge about their positions and increasing their standard to similarly-aligned voters.[9][74]