Honors College Thesis

The United States Election System: How an Outdated Electoral Structure has led to Political Polarization in the United States

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  • Political Polarization in the United States is at a level higher today than at any point in the past few decades. Possible causes of this rise in polarization have been provided from various sources, including explanations such as mass media and income inequality. Through historical analysis and a wide literature review, this thesis explores a major factor in political polarization, the United States election system. The thesis argues that the election system in the United States exacerbates the intensely polarized political climate of the modern day United States in three main ways: the electoral college, which produces the persisting two party system, primary elections, which reinforce extreme candidate views, and districting, which tends to increase politically uniform districts and lead candidates to position themselves at the poles rather than in the center. The thesis concludes that the only way to eliminate political polarization stemming from all of these sources would be to implement a unique proportional representation system for the United States. Key Words: Political polarization, election system, electoral college, primary elections, districting, gerrymandering.
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