There has, however, been an increase in partisanship in the house, and it truly is “asymmetrical”. The Republican House caucus has been becoming more conservative every year since 1977, whether or not House Republicans are winning or losing elections. Republicans have climbed from 0.4 on the DW nominate scales after the 1992 elections to near 0.7 in the last congress. That type of charge towards polarization is historically unusual over data that stretches back 130 years.
The fact that it is House Republicans who have become more partisan is somewhat surprising given that the party caucus is representing only slightly more Republican territory than it did 20 years ago. The percentage of Republicans representing seats that went for the Republican presidential candidate by five or more points than nationwide only increased from 74% to 90% – a 16-point increase. That is far less than the 37-point increase that House Democrats, who aren’t much more partisan than used to be, experienced during the same timeframe…
When Democrats were in the minority for of the 1995 to 2007 time period, the most cloture motions that were filed in a Senate was 82. Since 2007, the fewest number of clotures in a Senate has been 115. The average number per Senate when Democrats were in the minority was 70 – some 50 less than when Republicans were in the minority the past six years.
Yes, Democrats block bills, but Republicans block many more. This is gridlock at its finest (or worst).
When you put all these statistics together, the portrait painted becomes rather clear. Polarization is definitely up on the congressional district and state level. Yet, the feeling that Democrats and Republicans are further apart than they used to be is upon inspection of the evidence more because of Republicans than Democrats.