Common problems (or, what's missing from the conventional wisdom on polarization and gridlock)

Sanford C. Gordon, Dimitri Landa

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    We examine the intuition that in supermajoritarian settings, polarization and policy-making gridlock are fundamentally linked but that a pressing common problem can reduce both. When actors' individual costs from a policy addressing such a problemdiffer, their preferences over the appropriate policy respond asymmetrically to increases in the magnitude of the problem. In a broad range of circumstances such increases can give rise to increased polarization but may also simultaneously yield net welfare-enhancing policy adjustments rather than entrenchment of gridlock. The association of polarization and gridlock is contingent on how the problem responds to the policy solution, institutional structure, and the location of the status quo policy when the extent of the problem changes. We illustrate the model's logic by comparing US national policy making in the Progressive Era and the present.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1433-1437
    Number of pages5
    JournalJournal of Politics
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Oct 2017


    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science

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