In 2006, a group of researchers, led by Princeton professor Nolan McCarty, found a link between political disagreement and income inequality. Their findings were published at PolarizedAmerica.com.
According to the report, the average positions of Democrats and Republicans began to split in the mid-70s, leading us to where we are today. This almost directly paralleled the growth of the income gap.
New data from the Journal of Politics examined state-level politics and income inequality in hopes of revealing more about the relationship. It appears that income inequality might lead to a political divide.
“U.S. senators from states with high levels of income inequality are more polarized than other senators,” writes Louisiana State University political scientist James Garand, “primarily in response to state income inequality and greater constituency polarization that results from high income inequality.”
Garland analyzed state-level income inequality and the roll call of U.S. senators from the mid-70s to the mid-2000s. As income inequality widened in a state, voting positions of the senators tended to polarize.
“Increases in income inequality in senators’ home states move Republicans in a more conservative direction,” he reports, “resulting in a systematic increase in the difference in ideological positions for Republicans and non-Southern Democrats.”
Democrats, he adds, “respond to the same increases in state income inequality by moving moderately (but significantly) in the liberal direction.”
With the income gap showing no signs of slowing, we might just have to get used to the bickering in Washington.