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Incremental PolarizationA Unified Spatial Theory of Legislative Elections, Parties and Roll Call Voting$
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Justin Buchler

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190865580

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190865580.001.0001

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Polarization and Solving the Collective Action Problem

Polarization and Solving the Collective Action Problem

(p.97) 5 Polarization and Solving the Collective Action Problem
Incremental Polarization

Justin Buchler

Oxford University Press

The unified model predicts that a legislative caucus that is ideologically homogeneous, electorally diverse and policy-motivated will empower party leaders to solve the collective action problem of sincere voting. The result will be that legislators incrementally adopt ideologically extreme, electorally suboptimal positions in the policy space. Over the course of the post-World War II period, the party caucuses became more ideologically homogeneous, but retained their electoral diversity, thereby creating the conditions for party government. Legislators from centrist, competitive districts closely tracked their party medians rather than adopting centrist positions, which would have satisfied their constituents. That suggests parties are solving the collective action problem of sincere voting. No other institution is comparably suited to creating that effect, and even the rise of competitive primaries serves as a poor explanation for the phenomenon.

Keywords:   polarization, Congress, party, primary, election, redistricting, Tea Party

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