Submission Date


Document Type




Faculty Mentor

Gerard Fitzpatrick


Presented during the 17th Annual Summer Fellows Symposium, July 24, 2015 at Ursinus College.

Project Description

David Mayhew’s book Divided We Govern (1991, 2005) has profoundly affected the way political scientists not only study but also understand “divided government” in American national politics. By analyzing hundreds of congressional statutes enacted during periods of both divided and unified government, Mayhew showed that divided government is not as bad as often thought. The scholarly response to Mayhew’s book has continued to reshape how divided government is perceived and studied by considering the role of other aspects of our political system that Mayhew overlooked, such as the formation of party coalitions in times of divided and unified government, the recent polarization both within and between the Democratic and Republican parties, and the impact of individual actors—particularly the president—on legislative productivity. The scholarly literature on divided government can help us to understand better the current political impasse in Washington, D.C. where a Democratic president and a Republican-controlled Congress battle over rival policy agendas. Is the gridlock and limited legislative output the result of divided government, party polarization, or ineffective executive and legislative leadership? My project seeks to answer this question by analyzing the evolving literature on divided government.

Open Access

Available to all.