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It's Not Just You. Data Visuals Show Congress Is More Divided Than Ever.

by Countable | 11.21.17

What’s the story?

Most of us sense it, the increasing polarization of Congress. But when did it start? Hasn’t it always been this way?

Data visuals designed by Mike Cisneros and featured by Co.Design, map out the progression of polarization in Congress going back to the very beginning, in 1789, and proceeding to the 115th Congress today. The images are striking, and map clearly when and to what degree the "sides" have coalesced.

Why does it matter?

Political polarization is on the rise across our society, but it is less obvious in our daily lives, when we all can create political and social bubbles in which most everyone we interact with is "like us". But Congress is stuck with each other, and the level of polarization is hard to miss.

Bipartisan cooperation, much less major bipartisan legislation, can seem like a thing of the past. But haven’t politicians always disagreed? What about the Civil War? Weren’t they more polarized then?

Not according to the data, analyzed by UCLA’s Department of Political Science and Social Science Computing and visualized by Cisneros. "Sides" clearly emerged at that point, but each side within itself was less compact. There was more diversity on both the Right and the Left.

Since then, and markedly since the presidency of George W. Bush, the sides have pulled farther apart from each other and pulled tighter together within the ranks. The average member of Congress, meanwhile has become more fiscally conservative and ‘slightly’ more socially liberal.

What do you think?

What do you think is the result of congressional polarization? Does it concern you? Do you think it’s inevitable? Is there anything we, the voters, can do to reverse the trend?

Tell us in the comments what you think, then use the Take Action button to tell your reps!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: DonkeyHotey via Flickr / Creative Commons)

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