Research at PPIC Says Redistricting Not to Blame for Partisanship in Sacramento Bee

A recent opinion piece at the Sacramento Bee by Eric McGhee at the Public Policy Institute of California says that there is no evidence that the 2001 redistricting of California caused increased partisanship in Sacramento. Referencing a report that came out earlier this year, Mr. McGhee says that if you measure partisanship by certain legislative votes, California’s level of partisanship did not change after the 2001 redistricting measure.

 The end result is partisanship. The only problem with this story: The Legislature was just as partisan before the 2001 redistricting. In “Redistricting and Legislative Partisanship,” a report recently published by Public Policy Institute of California, I looked at four different measures of roll-call voting in the Legislature. On every measure, the gap between Democrats and Republicans was as large before the redistricting as it has been since.

If it wasn’t the redistricting, then what has made legislators so partisan? The answer isn’t all that clear, but among the possibilities are the voters themselves. Those who identify with either party are more polarized now, which makes each party’s primary electorate more ideologically pure no matter how competitive the district might be. Legislators also face pressures from interest groups and party leaders that may push them away from their district’s position on at least some issues.

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