Res Publica - Journal of Undergraduate Research


Despite a wealth of literature on the causes of gridlock in Congress, there is a lack of comparative work at the state level exploring whether lawmaking in state legislatures functions similarly. Operating under a theoretical framework assuming polarization and divided government are the primary obstacles to legislative success, and controlling for majority seat share, I test the determinants of legislative productivity with an original dataset consisting of 31 states. I operationalize legislative productivity using a content analysis of editorials from each state during the 2009-2010 legislative sessions to identify pressing political issues, and then determine how many of these issues were addressed in some form of legislation during this period. Utilizing an improved measure of legislative productivity that weights issues by salience, I find that polarization’s effects on productivity are conditioned by the presence or absence of divided government; during instances of unified government, polarization increases productivity, while this effect is negated under divided government.