Kirkland on Divided Government and Shutdowns

Wednesday, Jan 9, 2019

Patricia Kirkland, assistant professor of politics and public affairs and CSDP faculty associate, is interviewed by Matt Grossmann  (Michigan State University) for the Niskanen Center's Political Research Digest: Are Divided Governments the Cause of Delays and Shutdowns?  Political Research Digest is available biweekly from the Niskanen Center and on iTunes. 

Kirkland discusses her research, concluding that divided government at the state level increases the chance of budget delays that can lead to shutdowns. She considers the connections between findings at the federal and state levels, as well as whether, and how, divided government also may increase deficits or affect lawmaking: "We also find some evidence that higher levels of polarization actually make it more likely for divided government to create legislative delay, which is I think very consistent with much of the more recent work on divided government at the federal level."

What do party divisions between the legislative and executive branches bring us in terms of policy output? Kirkland discusses policy implications, including noting that, "If it were the case that policymakers wanted to mitigate the potential for divided government to create problems in the future, they could create these critical deadlines, whether it’s a government shutdown for budgeting or whether it’s sunset provisions on laws or bills that need to be or programs that need to be reauthorized or funded at some point in time in the future or they go away. That might be a way of forcing them to get together and come to some sort of agreement to move forward in the future."