Ansolabehere, Stephen Daniel, Hirano, Shigeo, Hansen, John Mark, and Snyder, James M., Jr.
Hirano, Shigeo, James M. Snyder Jr., Stephen Daniel Ansolabehere, and John Mark Hansen. 2010. Primary elections and partisan polarization in the U.S. Congress. Quarterly Journal of Political Science 5(2): 169-191.
Many observers and scholars argue that primary elections contribute to ideological polarization in U.S. politics. We test this claim using congressional elections and roll call voting behavior. Many of our findings are null. We find little evidence that the introduction of primary elections, the level of primary election turnout, or the threat of primary competition are associated with partisan polarization in congressional roll call voting. We also find little evidence that extreme roll call voting records are positively associated with primary election outcomes. A positive finding is that general election competition exerts pressure toward convergence as extreme roll call voting is negatively correlated with general election outcomes. Government
The U.S. political system suffers from endemic design flaws and is notable for the way that a small subset of Americans—whose interests often don’t align with those of the vast majority of the population—wields disproportionate power. Absent organized and persistent action on the part of ordinary Americans, the system tends to serve the already powerful. That’s why this text is called Attenuated Democracy. To attenuate something is to make it weak or thin. Democracy in America has been thin from the beginning and continues to be so despite some notable progress in voting rights. As political scientists Benjamin Page and Martin Gilens wrote, “The essence of democracy is not just having reasonably satisfactory policies; the essence of democracy is popular control of government, with each citizen having an equal voice.” (1) Since this is likely to be your only college-level course on the American political system, it is important to point out the structural weaknesses of our system and the thin nature of our democracy. Whenever you get the chance—in the voting booth, in your job, perhaps if you hold elected office—I encourage you to do something about America’s attenuated democracy.