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Research Brief No. 12: Civility in State Legislatures

By March 15, 2022No Comments

As is the case for many institutions in the United States, American state legislatures have become more polarized over the past three decades.  While it is common to equate polarization with increased incivility, research findings on perceptions of civility in state legislatures show that polarization does not necessarily lead to greater incivility, nor do differences in political culture. 

Higher levels of civility tend to be associated with higher levels of professionalization, and with higher levels of racial and ethnic diversity within the legislature.  Lower levels of civility are present in legislatures with term limits.  Most importantly, however, the quality of leadership can influence the level of civility.  This finding suggests that well-designed efforts to encourage civility and bipartisan discourse in legislatures can be a tool for overcoming polarization.

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