A House Divided


THE 435 MEMBERS OF the House of Representatives are all either Democrats or Republicans, but most of them can also be assigned to one of four ideological categories: liberal, conservative, populist, and libertarian. This classification was suggested by the political scientists William S. Maddox and Stuart A. Lilie, in their book, Beyond Liberal and Conservative (Cato Institute, 1984). Maddox and Lilie defined as liberal those who generally favor government intervention in economic affairs and also expansion of personal freedom. Conservatives typically favor neither. Populists, like liberals, support economic intervention by the government, but they are leery of expanding personal freedom. Libertarians take precisely the opposite view. For instance, according to the Maddox-Lilie schema, liberals would tend to support both national health insurance and abortion on demand; conservatives would not support either; populists would support the former but not the latter, libertarians the latter but not the former. Maddox and Lilie devised their schema to point up imprecisions in the more conventional liberal-moderate-conservative schema. For example, because populists and libertarians tend to take conservative stands on certain kinds of issues and liberal stands on others, their distinct identities are disguised by an overall voting record that appears moderate. The map above was prepared by assigning the members of the House of Representatives in the 100th Congress, which expired last January, to one of the four ideological categories on the basis of their stands on a selection of major bills in recent years involving domestic economic issues or issues of personal freedom. The bills covered such varied matters as the death penalty, polygraph testing, discrimination against people with AIDS, funding for school-lunch programs, plant-closing notification requirements, collective bargaining, and catastrophic health care. A tabulation of the votes reveals that 210 House members can be classified as liberal, 158 as conservative, 24 as populist, and 19 as libertarian. Twenty-four could not be classified on the basis of the bills selected, and their districts are shown in white. The tabulations are based on members’ voting records as reported by Americans for Democratic Action and Congressional Quarterly.






As noted, the map depicts the 100th Congress; a map depicting the 101st Congress would be nearly identical, because 92 percent of House seats are held today by the people who held them before the elections last November.

—Rodger Doyle