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Remember moderates? They’re almost all gone

The gap between Democrats and Republicans in Congress is wider than ever, according to a new analysis from Pew Research Center.

Remember moderates? They’re almost all gone
[Source Images: ilbusca/Getty; stilllifephotographer/Getty]

According to a new analysis from Pew Research Center, common ground between Democrats and Republicans has shrunk over the past 50 years.

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In 1971-1972, there were over 160 moderate legislators in Congress, but today there are only about 24. Pew analyzed lawmakers’ votes over time, putting them on a scale of -1 (most liberal) to 1 (most conservative). They found that while both parties have moved away from the middle, Republicans have experienced a greater shift. Since the 1970s, House Democrats have moved 0.07 points to the left, while House Republicans have moved 0.25 points to the right.

These ideological changes are mirrored in geographic and demographic shifts in Congress. In the 1970s, about 33% of House Democrats were from Southern states, and they were much less liberal than their Northern counterparts. However, today, Southerners make up only 22% of House Democrats, and they are just as liberal as their Northern counterparts. Meanwhile, only 15% of House Republicans were Southerners in the 1970s; today 42% are, and they’ve become much more conservative.

Demographically, there’s also a gap between parties. In the 1970s, only 22 members of Congress were people of color. Today, we have the most racially and ethnically diverse Congress in history: 23% of the 117th Congress are racial minorities. However, 83% of them are members of the Democratic party.

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