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A Dime’s Worth of Difference?. Party Governance in America. I. The questions of party governance. Do parties behave differently once in government? In a two-party system, are the two parties really all that different? Since American parties are weak, do their members even follow party lines?.

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A dime s worth of difference l.jpg

A Dime’s Worth of Difference?

Party Governance in America


I the questions of party governance l.jpg
I. The questions of party governance

  • Do parties behave differently once in government?

  • In a two-party system, are the two parties really all that different?

  • Since American parties are weak, do their members even follow party lines?


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II. Do parties matter? The Party-Policy Connection in Congress

  • Roll-call votes = Behavioral measure of ideology (actions instead of words)

    • Limited to 109th/110th Congresses (2005-2006 and 2007-2008)

    • Controversial issues only (split is between 40-60 and 60-40)

    • High party unity on these votes (party line)









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G. Summary: General differences between parties in Congress are sacrosanct

  • Republicans favor trade (except Cuba) and military expansion, oppose international courts and environmental treaties

  • Republicans oppose abortion, gay rights, government social welfare programs, services to nonresidents, services to non-English speaking

  • Republicans favor business and higher-income workers over lower-income workers or environmental protection, and oppose taxes and unions

  • Republicans seek to expand gun rights and property rights but not speech rights or 4th Amendment rights

  • Democrats are opposite on each of these dimensions


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H. Caveat: Party Unity Varies By Representative (Weak Party Discipline)

  • Example: Republican Senators from Maine…

  • Surprise: Despite reputation for unity, Republican scores are lower than Democrat scores in 110th Congress


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III. Parties at the State Level Discipline)

  • Traditional finding: State party control has little effect on state policy

    • Possible explanation: State parties adapt to voters in the state and move to the center once elected.

      • Result: Policy tends to follow ideology of state voters rather than which party controls government

      • Examples: Pro-life Democrats in PA, pro-choice Republicans in NY

    • Possible exception: Highly competitive states (single-party states give ruling party no incentive to implement policy)


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Findings Discipline)

  • State ideology determines state party positions

  • Republicans in liberal states more liberal than Democrats in conservative states!



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IV. Unanswered Questions threatened

  • To what extent does ideology predict party positions?

  • To what extent are divisions between party elites mirrored in the general public?

  • How do states’ political cultures and ideologies differ?


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