Party Polarization: Is the Tea Party Changing the GOP?

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Political parties see shifts on a continuum; year to year, there are changes in the conservative and liberal tendencies, dependent on the political atmosphere. However, the Republican party looks to actually be swinging further right in a significant way in recent years, such that it may be having a visible effect in Congress. Keith Poole spoke with NPR on a study he did at the University of Georgia with a fellow researcher, Howard Rosenthal, from New York University.

Over decades, the two have worked to record the changes and extremes of political stances between the party, and Poole reported that the stats don’t lie: Republicans are indeed becoming more conservative. “The short version would be since the late 1970s, starting with the 1976 election in the House, the Republican caucus has steadily moved to the right ever since. It’s been a little more uneven in the Senate. The Senate caucuses have also moved to the right. Republicans are now furthest to the right that they’ve been in 100 years,” said Poole.

Others would argue that the same can be said of Democrats. For example, Karlyn Bowman, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institution, said that since she’s been watching, both parties have polarized. “The Democratic Party has been pulled to the left and the Republican Party has been pulled to the right. Part of that is redistricting,” argued Bowman, in an interview with NPR. Still, while Poole admits that to be the case, he believes his study shows more of a change in Republicans than in Democrats. “It is true that the Republicans have moved further to the right than the Democrats have moved to the left. That’s absolutely true,” he said. Still, he doesn’t excuse leadership in either party for their inability to enact change.

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