The Dynamics of Partisan Conflict on Congressional Approval


  • I would like to thank David A. M. Peterson, Jon Bond, Paul Kellstedt, Nicolai Petrovsky, B. Dan Wood, and the anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier versions of this research and Christina Wolbrecht for her data. This research also benefited from comments from participants at the 2006 annual meeting of The Society for Political Methodology at the University of California, Davis and the 2007 annual meeting of the Southern Political Science Association.

Mark D. Ramirez, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Political Science, Texas A&M University, 4348 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843-4348 (


Partisan divisions in American politics have been increasing since the 1970s following a period where scholars thought parties were in decline. This polarization is observed most frequently within the debates and deliberation across issues within Congress. Given that most studies of public opinion place the behavior of elites at the center of public attitudes, surprisingly little research examines the effect of partisan conflict on the mass public. This research examines quarterly congressional approval data from 1974 to 2000 to determine the consequences, if any, of party conflict on the dynamics of congressional approval. The findings indicate that over-time changes in partisan conflict within Congress have a direct and lasting effect on how citizens think about Congress.