Honors Program


Date of this Version

Spring 2022

Document Type



Wilburn, Megan. Yelling in the House: Analyzing Causes of Combative Partisan Rhetoric in Congress. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. March 2022.


Copyright Megan Willburn 2022.


This study considers the impact of majority party status, electoral vulnerability, extremism, and political party on the use of combative partisan rhetoric, using the theory of minority party agenda-setting and the asymmetric model of polarization as potential causal mechanisms. I test my hypotheses using self-coded data from substantive speeches made on the House floor. The overall findings indicate that political extremism and majority party status have the most statistically significant and substantive impact on use of combative partisan rhetoric among these variables, both demonstrating a positive correlation. The measured correlation with electoral vulnerability and political party affiliation respectively do not reach statistical significance. The statistically significant results present concerns regarding damage that the American democratic system may be doing to itself. Specifically, while democracy suggests that Americans should be able to elect representatives with similar political perspectives and goals, the popular increase in political polarization and the resulting increase in politically extreme representatives may have an adverse effect on the stability of American democracy.