Clio Andris, Christian Gunning, Marcus Hamilton, David Lee, John Selden

Paper #: 13-11-037

It is widely believed among politicians and the public that partisanship in the U.S. Congress is at an historic high, culminating in the government shutdown of fall 2013. Here, we examine the history of (non-)cooperation in the U.S. Congress using data from roll call votes in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1949-2012. For each year, we focus on the number of cooperating pairs of representatives within and across political parties and show that cooperation was common in the past but is rare today. We also show that despite short-term fluctuations, partisanship, or non-cooperation, in the U.S. Congress has been increasing exponentially for over 60 years and shows no sign of slowing or reversing. Moreover, the data suggest that American voters have been electing increasingly partisan, non-cooperating representatives at a local level which has resulted in declining measures of Congressional productivity.