Schreckhise, W., Pierce, J., Benjamin, F., Lovrich, N., & Button, E. (2023). Legislative Civility, Gridlock, Polarization, and Productivity. State Politics & Policy Quarterly, 1-22. doi:10.1017/spq.2023.23

To what extent are more civil legislatures able to produce more new legislation? Our findings suggest that there is indeed a positive relationship between legislative statutory productivity and civility, confirming H1 – namely, state legislatures that lobbyists rate as more civil do indeed pass more pieces of legislation. The model in Table 1 estimates that the most civil legislature passed more than 64% more legislation than the least civil ones in 2018 and 2019, while Model 2 estimates that the most civil legislature passed a higher proportion of bills that were introduced, providing support for H2. Perhaps even more importantly, the results reported here suggest that our measure of civility would seem to be the best predictor in our models of total legislative productivity. Only three other state-level variables included in our first two analytical models – a state’s population and the total number of bill introductions in the first model, and the presence of limits on bill introductions in the second – offer any additional significant predictive power.


Such a pattern remains when we turn our attention to more significant pieces of legislation. The model presented in Table 4 (testing H3) reveals that states with more civil legislatures passed significantly more pieces of the “important” state legislation identified in the Boehmke et al. (Reference Boehmke, Brockway, Desmarais, Harden, La Combe, Linder and Wallach2018) SPID dataset than less civil ones. Such a relationship between civility and legislative productivity is also evident when examining the probability that a state passed their FY 2020 budget on time (see Model 5.1), providing evidence for H4. Additionally, our findings suggest that civility and polarization interact in a way to combat both partisan polarization and legislative gridlock – namely, that states with legislatures rated as being more civil are more likely to pass these on-time budgets. This is true regardless of the extent to which their state legislative parties are ideologically polarized. Highly polarized, yet civil, legislatures are just as likely to pass their budgets on time than less polarized and less civil ones.