British Journal of Political Science



Research Article

The Shrinking Middle in the US Congress


RICHARD  FLEISHER  a1 and JOHN R.  BOND  a2 a
a1 Department of Political Science, Fordham University
a2 Department of Political Science, Texas A&M University

Abstract

The virtual disappearance of moderate and cross-pressured members from the US Congress is analysed in this article. There were substantial numbers of these partisan non-conformists in both parties and in both chambers until the early 1980s when the middle began to shrink. This trend continued and accelerated in the 1990s. Partisan non-conformists disappeared through replacement and conversion. When moderate and cross-pressured members left Congress, their replacements were much more likely to be mainstream partisans in the 1980s and 1990s than they had been in earlier decades. The occurrence of some type of conversion (a shift towards the party's ideological mainstream or a party switch) is also much more common in recent decades. We present evidence that the shrinking middle in Congress resulted from electoral changes.



Footnotes

a We are grateful to David Brady, Lou Ayala, Jeff Stonecash and Tom Brunell for sharing data used in this article, and for the datasets posted by Keith Poole. We appreciate helpful comments from David Rohde, Jeff Cohen, David Lawrence, Kim Hill and Patricia Hurley, Brandy Durham and Justin Vaughn.