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The Multiplicity of Factions: Multi-Dimensional Ideal Points for Interest Groups & Members of Congress (WP-23-13)

Kevin McAlister, Jesse Crosson, Alexander Furnas, and Geoffrey Lorenz

America’s two-party system and related political institutions generally collapse conflict toward a single left-right dimension. While previous work underscored how such forces belie actual latent disagreement across multiple preference dimensions, more recent methodological improvements and new data allow for greater analysis of both the optimal number of dimensions as well as the ideal points of individual actors on each dimension. The researchers apply these methods to a dataset of legislators’ roll-call votes and interest groups’ publicly observable positions on bills. Doing so demonstrates that in addition to the classic left vs. right dimension, American national political conflict is optimally characterized by dimensions concerning agriculture, conservation, and development, and industry versus privacy. Characterizing these dimensions and the actors that exemplify them informs speculation about potential latent factions in American politics that might be “released” if American political institutions were reformed to better encourage multiparty-ism.

Kevin McAlister, Teaching Assistant Professor, Department of Quantitative Theory and Methods, Emory University

Jesse Crosson, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Purdue University

Alexander Furnas, Research Assistant Professor, Center for Science of Science and Innovation, and IPR Associate, Northwestern University

Geoffrey Lorenz, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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