Back to top

Knowledge Base

Party Instability: Why American Politics Feels Broken

What is party sorting?

Party sorting occurs when parties become more homogenous. For instance, party sorting occurred over the past few decades as liberal Republicans became Democrats and conservative Democrats became Republicans. Instead of a political party having both liberals and conservatives under its tent, sorting means it becomes dominated by one ideology.

Party sorting does have some negative consequences, as it can lead to political. Even more importantly, party sorting makes a major contribution to gridlock and political stalemate. On the other hand, sorting has clarified the choices facing the electorate and made it easier for voters to assign political responsibility to elected politicians.

What is political instability and why is it happening?

Political instability, defined as volatility in electoral politics, is on the rise in the US and occurring because of deep, ongoing economic and demographic structural changes that are causing existing voting blocs to regroup and reconsider which issues motivate them and which party they support. As a result, control of the legislative and executive branches keeps shifting back and forth.