New Study Shows California Legislature Less Polarized Following Reforms

Governor Schwarzenegger fought for political reforms that took the power away from the politicians and returned it to the people. When voters passed two reforms; Open Primary; and Redistricting, the hope was that this would put an end to gerrymandering, and lead to more competition and less political gridlock. A core principle of the Institute is that policy is best when guided by empirical data and research, so USC Professor Christian Grose was asked to conduct research on the impact of these reforms on the California legislature. Among the significant findings were that the reforms have started to shift the California Legislature towards the center. Since the introduction of the top-two primaries and independently drawn district lines, the Legislature is becoming more moderate and less polarized. Polarization between the two parties, as demonstrated by an analysis of members’ votes, has been reduced by 15 percent in the Assembly and 10 percent in the Senate. During the same time period, polarization between the parties has increased in the U.S. Congress.

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