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Are Bipartisan Lawmakers More Effective? (WP-21-08)

Laurel Harbridge-Yong, Craig Volden, and Alan Wiseman

The researchers confront the puzzle of why bipartisanship is alive and well in Congress, despite party polarization and rising primary election threats. The answer is remarkably simple – bipartisanship works for individual lawmakers. The authors show that members of the House and Senate from the 93rd – 114th Congresses (1973-2016) who attract a larger portion of their bill cosponsors from the opposing party are much more successful at lawmaking. Bipartisanship is linked to increases in members’ overall legislative effectiveness, and especially to moving legislation through committee and on the floor. The authors show these patterns to be robust to both majority-party and minority-party lawmakers and across congressional eras. Moreover, a clear path to attracting bipartisan cosponsors is through reciprocity, through cosponsoring others’ bills across party lines.

Laurel Harbridge-Yong, Associate Professor of Political Science and IPR Fellow, Northwestern University

Craig Volden, Professor of Public Policy and Politics, University of Virginia

Alan Wiseman, Professor and Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair of Political Science, Vanderbilt University

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