PARTY VOTING AND POLICY CONTENT PERSPECTIVES OF ALIGNMENTS IN THE POST - NEW DEAL HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
COLLIE, MARY MELISSA PRATKA
Doctor of Philosophy
The primary purpose of this analysis is to examine voting alignments in the U.S. House of Representatives during the post-New Deal era. The analysis focuses on House alignments during three periods: the 74th-76th (1935-40), the 84th-86th (1955-60), and the 94th-96th (1975-80) Congresses. Two approaches that have shaped the last decade's study of congressional voting alignments are considered. One is termed the party voting approach. It is designed to monitor change in the collective voting behavior of the legislative parties. The other is termed the policy content approach. It is designed to monitor change in the voting patterns associated with broadly defined policy areas. An examination in Chapter 1 of prior research reveals that the two approaches attend to different research problems and to different aspects of change in voting patterns. Despite the influence of both approaches in recent longitudinal analyses of congressional voting, the two have yet to be compared systematically. Chapter 2 considers the theoretical and conceptual tenets of the two approaches. The discussion leads to the development of a conceptual framework that depicts four scenarios of congressional voting alignments. It is then argued that longitudinal change and stability may be conceptualized as the movement (or lack of movement) between the four scenarios. The third chapter evaluates the conventional methodologies associated with the two approaches. Several problems are identified in both methodologies. Modifications are introduced to address the problems and the research design employed in the analysis is presented. The fourth chapter presents the results of the modified party voting approach and the modified policy content approach for the three periods. In general, the results indicate a decline of the partisan cleavage and an increase in both consensus and alignment fragmentation. The final chapter summarizes the major findings of the analysis, reconsiders the strengths and weaknesses of the two approaches, and draws comparisons with other research. In conclusion, possible causes and consequences of the changes observed are considered.