Two Parties Diverged: Identifying Features of Congressional Cosponsorship Using Network Analysis
Haverford College. Department of Sociology
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Across the social sciences there has been rising concern over the level of polarization among American elites and the harmful implications of this trend. However, most approaches to this issue have been limited by their over reliance on Congressional voting records as a measure of cooperation, their inability to endogenize the stable working relationships integral to the legislative process,and their theoretical approaches that failed to synthesize the social and the structural influences on Congressional cooperation. Using records of cosponsorship in the House of Representatives dating back to 1999, I build and analyze cosponsorship networks to identify the significance of party affiliation and gender in determining patterns of bipartisan work over time. The most general conclusion is that a more comprehensive theoretical model for cooperation in Congress that includes both social and structural influences is possible. There are two notable findings when it comes to party. First, the pressure to work across party lines is greater for the minority party than for the majority party. Second, the Republican party is much more diverse in its approaches to compromise than the Democratic party. There are three important results regarding gender. First, women in both parties in the House generally cosponsor more than men, though this trend is stronger among Democrats than Republicans. Second, in the Democratic party, women cosponsor within their own party more than men but cosponsor across party lines at the same rate as men. The opposite is true for Republicans. Finally, twenty years ago women worked more across party lines with women than men, but this trend has disappeared today. Implications and avenues for future research are briefly discussed.