Res Publica - Journal of Undergraduate Research


Amy Stewart '96


Recently, the general public and the media have paid much attention to an increasing polarization on welfare issues. As Everett Carll Ladd's (1995) survey illustrates in Figure 1, three quarters of the general population agreed on the role of government in welfare in 1988. However, this consensus had disintegrated into a near polar split by 1994. Because the U.S. House of Representatives is supposedly most responsive to popular opinion, the research here uses the House to investigate possible determinants of this trend. I postulate that not only divided government and the decline of the conservative coalition, but also the "Contract With America" have contributed to the development of party unity--and its mirror opposite, party polarization--on welfare issues. I intend to demonstrate three points: (1) the New Deal "conservative coalition" has not declined, (2) that the unity of both parties has increased after the "Contract With America," and (3) that the Democrats remain consistently more unified than the Republicans despite the perception that Republicans are more unified as a result of their"Contract With America."