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Does Gerrymandering Cause Polarization?

54 Pages Posted: 1 Jul 2008  

Nolan McCarty

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs; Princeton University - Department of Political Science

Keith T. Poole

University of Georgia - School of Public and International Affairs

Howard Rosenthal

New York University (NYU) - Wilf Family Department of Politics

Date Written: February 2006

Abstract

Both pundits and scholars have blamed increasing levels of partisan conflict and polarization in Congress on the effects of partisan gerrymandering. We assess whether there is a strong causal relationship between congressional districting and polarization. We find very little evidence for such a link. First, we show that congressional polarization is primarily a function of the differences in how Democrats and Republicans represent the same districts rather than a function of which districts each party represents or the distribution of constituency preferences. Second, we conduct simulations to gauge the level of polarization under various "neutral" districting procedures. We find that the actual levels of polarization are not much higher than those produced by the simulations. We do find that gerrymandering has increased the Republican seat share in the House; this increase is not an important source of polarization.

Suggested Citation

McCarty, Nolan and Poole, Keith T. and Rosenthal, Howard, Does Gerrymandering Cause Polarization? (February 2006). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1154054 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1154054

Nolan McCarty

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs ( email )

Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States

Princeton University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Corwin Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544-1013
United States
(609) 258-1862 (Phone)
(609) 258-2809 (Fax)

Keith T. Poole (Contact Author)

University of Georgia - School of Public and International Affairs ( email )

Baldwin Hall
Athens, GA 30602-6254
United States

Howard Rosenthal

New York University (NYU) - Wilf Family Department of Politics ( email )

715 Broadway
New York, NY 10003
United States

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