Why Washington Won't Work: Polarization, Political Trust, And The Governing Crisis

Paperback | September 14, 2015

byMarc J. Hetherington, Thomas J. Rudolph

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Polarization is at an all-time high in the United States. But contrary to popular belief, Americans are polarized not so much in their policy preferences as in their feelings toward their political opponents: To an unprecedented degree, Republicans and Democrats simply do not like one another. No surprise that these deeply held negative feelings are central to the recent (also unprecedented) plunge in congressional productivity. The past three Congresses have gotten less done than any since scholars began measuring congressional productivity.
           
In Why Washington Won’t Work, Marc J. Hetherington and Thomas J. Rudolph argue that a contemporary crisis of trust—people whose party is out of power have almost no trust in a government run by the other side—has deadlocked Congress. On most issues, party leaders can convince their own party to support their positions. In order to pass legislation, however, they must also create consensus by persuading some portion of the opposing party to trust in their vision for the future. Without trust, consensus fails to develop and compromise does not occur. Up until recently, such trust could still usually be found among the opposition, but not anymore. Political trust, the authors show, is far from a stable characteristic. It’s actually highly variable and contingent on a variety of factors, including whether one’s party is in control, which part of the government one is dealing with, and which policies or events are most salient at the moment.

Political trust increases, for example, when the public is concerned with foreign policy—as in times of war—and it decreases in periods of weak economic performance. Hetherington and Rudolph do offer some suggestions about steps politicians and the public might take to increase political trust. Ultimately, however, they conclude that it is unlikely levels of political trust will significantly increase unless foreign concerns come to dominate and the economy is consistently strong.

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Polarization is at an all-time high in the United States. But contrary to popular belief, Americans are polarized not so much in their policy preferences as in their feelings toward their political opponents: To an unprecedented degree, Republicans and Democrats simply do not like one another. No surprise that these deeply held negativ...

Marc J. Hetherington is professor of political science at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of Why Trust Matters and coauthor, with Jonathan D. Weiler, of Authoritarianism andPolarization in American Politics. Thomas J. Rudolph is professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and coauthor of Exp...

other books by Marc J. Hetherington

Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics
Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics

Paperback|Aug 24 2009

$35.87 online$40.50list price(save 11%)
Format:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 8.75 × 6.35 × 0.68 inPublished:September 14, 2015Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022629921X

ISBN - 13:9780226299211

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

Chapter 1        Why Extreme Leaders Don’t Listen to a Moderate Public
Chapter 2        Polarization, Political Trust, and Institutional Responsiveness
Chapter 3        What Moves Political Trust
Chapter 4        How Political Trust Became Polarized
Chapter 5        How Priming Changes the Consequences of Political Trust
Chapter 6        Political Trust Can Help Conservatives, Too
Chapter 7        The Gordian Knot: A Bad Economy, Low Trust, and the Need for More Spending
Chapter 8        Political Trust and Flagging Support for Obamacare
Chapter 9        Can Things Change?
Chapter 10      Things Will Probably Get Better, but We Are Not Sure How

Notes
References
Index

Editorial Reviews

“Hetherington and Rudolph’s careful statistical analysis of public opinion expands the understanding of the role of political trust in the governing process by treating it as a cause rather than a consequence of public policy. . . . Highly recommended.”