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Agreeing to Disagree, or Disagreeing to Agree

Agreeing to Disagree, or Disagreeing to Agree

Agenda Content and Rising Partisanship

(p.162) Chapter Seven Agreeing to Disagree, or Disagreeing to Agree
Beyond Ideology
University of Chicago Press

Ideology does not matter in congressional politics only insofar as individual members have personal beliefs that lead them to take predictable positions. Both Democrats and Republicans have an interest in focusing debate on issues that unify their party internally and that distinguish them from the opposition. This chapter examines variation in the presence of ideological issues on the Senate agenda. It argues that the strengthening of the parties as teams has helped to focus the legislative agenda on questions of ideology that most reliably distinguish between the parties. Much of the increase in Senate party conflict between 1981 and 2004 can be attributed to changes in the content of the Senate agenda. The types of ideological issues that caused the most division and partisanship in earlier periods became progressively more pronounced on the congressional agenda. Meanwhile, those issues that often triggered party conflict in earlier periods represented a smaller share of the agenda. In other words, changes in the content of the Senate agenda promoted higher levels of partisan voting.

Keywords:   ideology, Senate, legislative agenda, party conflict, partisanship, partisan voting, Republicans, congressional agenda

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