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date: 09 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

One of the most fertile areas of research has been the question of why the American political system has polarized so sharply over the past four decades. The academic debates about polarization have largely been carried out by mainstream scholars of political behavior and institutions. Scholars of American Political Development (APD) have a major opportunity to participate in a vital debate about the emergence of a central feature of the contemporary American system while mainstream scholars should come to appreciate that one cannot easily develop explanations for dynamic change with static models of institutions and behavior. This chapter reviews the literature on polarization to introduce scholars of APD to debates about the measurement of polarization and its causes Also areas in which our knowledge about polarization can be improved by historical–institutional analysis are identified.

Keywords: polarization, representation, partisanship, Congress, ideology, ideal points, political parties, public opinion

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