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Political Polarization v. Median Voter:

Political Scientists traditionally have thought that highly-contested elections tend to moderate politics by inducing politicians, the so-called "median voter theorem." Steven Teles describes some research that suggests that today, by contrast, high competition might instead become turnout battles, suggesting greater, rather than lesser polarization. Among other implications, if the analysis is correct, it suggests that nonpartisan redistricting might do little to solve the problem of political polarization in Congress.

Nicole Black (mail) (www):
Redistricting may not solve the problem of political polarization in Congress, but wouldn't it solve the problem of unequal representation due to the alleged politically driven redistricting?
12.20.2005 7:16pm
Bruce Wilder (www):
Nicole: Not necessarily. Redistricting might be directed toward an allegedly neutral object, such as some concept of "geographical compactness" which would, nevertheless lead to underrepresentation of some subset of the population (in the case of "compactness", urban voters are likely victims).

It might be wiser to allow some multi-representative districts, and some kind of proportional voting scheme. Large urban areas could be represented by several representatives, elected with proportional voting. Politicians, under a proportional scheme, would have an incentive to make themselves the "second love" of a lot of people, which is an incentive to be nice.
12.20.2005 7:59pm
fling93 (www):
I think the best way to avoid polarization is to create a center-weighted multi-party legislature by using Proportional Representation, but supplemented with Condorcet to select centrist chairpeople. I read that idea here, and it makes a lot of sense.

PR also has the neat bonus of eliminating the redistricting issue altogether.
12.20.2005 8:29pm
Joshua Sharf (mail) (www):
Nonpartisan redistricting, though, would mean that many more districts would be competitive, and national and state parties wouldn't be able to concentrate their resources into a few races.

However, I can see where a more nationalized electorate (even if the voting system is still by district), could become more polarized. If I believe that electing a moderate of the other party will permit its extremist leadership to exercise power, that moderate's local effectiveness becomes less important.
12.20.2005 10:25pm
Clay Blankenship (mail):
It often seems that the two major candidates come from (relatively speaking) the ends of the political spectrum when many voters would be happy with a moderate. Seems like a good argument to eliminate primaries.
12.21.2005 4:54pm
fling93 (www):
PR also has the bonus of eliminating primaries. :)
12.21.2005 5:13pm
fling93 (www):
More on how PR would address polarization from Prof. Matthew Shugart (who knows a tad bit more about what he's talking about than I do).
12.25.2005 5:16pm
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