Graduate Program

Political Science

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Andrew D. McNitt

Thesis Committee Member

Kevin R. Anderson

Thesis Committee Member

Melinda A. Mueller


This thesis analyzes whether polarization is occurring in congressional committees, both the House of Representatives and the Senate standing committees, from 1970-2010. Sean Theirault's (2006) research of polarization on the floor of Congress is the foundation for identifying similar results in the standing committees. In addition, committees will be separated into three different types: regional, national, and power. These types are based on previous categorizing strategies by Glenn Parker and Suzanne Parker (1979), Keith Krebhiel (1990), Garry Young and Valerie Heitshusen (2003), and Gary Cox and Matthew McCubbins (2007). The separation of committees is to find if some committees polarize more than others over time. DW-Nominate scores will be utilized to find the median of each political party in these committees. In addition, David Jones's (2001) theory of political gridlock presents the basis for analysis at the committee level to find if polarization is affecting the number of bills being reported out of each committee. THOMAS, an online branch of the Library of Congress, is the database that provides the bills reporting in and out of the committees. The result has provided evidence the congressional committees are becoming polarized throughout the time period in this analysis, especially in the House of Representatives. In addition, the higher the level of polarization in the committee, the lower the percentage of bills being reported back out of the committees. Polarization is occurring in the congressional committees and might be playing a bigger factor on politics within the committees than on the floors of Congress.