Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Departmental Honors


Political Science


The United States Senate is one of the major legislating forces in the United States and can make policy impacts that can have significant impacts for the entire nation. The two major political parties in the U.S. have significant influence on the members of this body, yet they are elected to represent each of the different states. Previous research has shown that states and districts can vary significantly in their political leanings and preferences, even from the party that is considered the majority in that area. The purpose of this study is to investigate several forces that may influence members' of the U.S. Senate voting patterns - specifically how frequently they vote with their party. The main variables in question are the individual state ideology and the state ideological heterogeneity, or how diverse the ideological viewpoints are of those in each state. Other factors used in this analysis are the ideology and ideological heterogeneity of each of the major political parties in the state, the previous election margins of victory for incumbent Senators, and leadership positions of the Senators. Over the course of this research, it was found that there are major differences between the two parties in how they respond to each of these variables. Republicans were more responsive to increases in homogeneity among their constituents. Democrats didn't seem to respond at all. Both parties did vote more frequently with their parties as they became ideologically extreme. Overall, this study has important implications for how individuals are represented by their elected officials, how changing political demographics may affect representation, and it gives greater insight into how U.S. Senators choose to balance competing interests.



Faculty Mentor

Damon Cann

Departmental Honors Advisor

Michael Lyons

Capstone Committee Member

Veronica Ward