Using network analysis to measure partisanship in Congress

An analysis of partisanship–using network analysis and singular value decomposition, rather than talking head rancor and irritation–shows the strength of connections among House committees for the 107th Congress.

“Among other findings was that the Homeland Security Committee has very strong ties to the Rules Committee. It has very weak ties to the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and shared no members in common with its Terrorism and Homeland Security Subcommittee . . .

‘We use a tool called network theory, which we borrow from other situations like studies of the World Wide Web or of people who sit together on the boards of more than one company,’ said Mason Porter, visiting assistant professor at Georgia Tech. ‘By looking at the number of members that pairs of committees and subcommittees share, we were able to determine the strengths of those connections.’

. . .

‘Every representative boils down to two numbers that you can put in a rectangle on a piece of paper. One represents how far they are on the extremes of the political spectrum – we called that partisanship – and the other represents how well they play with others,’ said Porter.

Current Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, along with Janice Schakowsky and James McGovern from Illinois were among the most partisan Democrats of the House. Among the most partisan Republicans were Thomas Tancredo from Colorado, John Shadegg from Arizona and Jim Ryun from Kansas. The least partisan members included Frank Lucas from Oklahoma, former congresswoman Constance Morella of Maryland and Ralph Hall from Texas.”

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