Res Publica - Journal of Undergraduate Research


Over the years, polarization in America has not only increased but also become more ideologically focused on in government. Furthermore, scholarship on polarization has ignored the payoffs that political actors seek while they pursue re-election. Elected representatives have numerous objectives to balance while in office. Not only do they need to manage the preferences of the people and the party, but re-election is at the centerfold of their decision-making process. To evaluate this decision-making process a difference is identified between actual vs. perceived polarization. By illustrating a gap between the constituents’ preferences and representatives’ voting choices via actual and perceived polarization, it is shown that there is a difference in the ideological outcomes representatives seek from what their constituents truly want. This gap then helps explain the strategic voting process done by political actors to drive polarization. Although an uncommon route, to evaluate polarization, I utilize game theory. The game theoretical framework within this analysis demonstrates that in America, representative democracy has changed and no longer serves the purpose it was intended to because of polarization.