Mar 16, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Polarization in Congress hits half-century peak

Reproduced from Pew Research Center; Chart: Axios Visuals. Pew Research notes: "Data excludes nonvoting delegates, as well as lawmakers who officially served but (due to illness, resignation or other factors) didn't have a scorable voting record for a given Congress."

Congressional Democrats and Republicans are further apart ideologically than at any point during the past five decades — and Republicans are more to blame than Democrats, according to analysis by Pew Research Center.

Why it matters: The growing polarization makes it even more difficult for Congress to find bipartisan compromise for important legislation.

  • Both parties have had to deal with internal fracturing, but the GOP has moved further right than Democrats have moved left, the Pew analysis shows.
  • Republicans have ended up with some untouchable partisans.

By the numbers: Pew Research highlighted three major congressional trends in recent decades.

  • On average, Democrats are more liberal and Republicans are much more conservative than in the early 1970s.
  • Moderates have disappeared, and there's far less ideological overlap between Republicans and Democrats. There are now only about two dozen moderate Democrats and Republicans left, compared to 160 in 1971-72.
  • Congress is now far more demographically diverse.

Go deeper: The geographic makeup of each party has shifted, as well.

  • The share of House Republicans from the South has grown from less than 15% 50 years ago to 42% today — and these Southern Republicans have become even more conservative than the rest of the party.
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