The study evaluates the Utah State Capitol cooperation network

Politicians whisper during the 2022 Utah State Capitol session. From left to right are Republican representatives Karianne Lisonbee, Walt Brooks, and Cory Malloy in the house chamber of the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah. Credit: Connor Davis

Do politicians behave like humans? Many jokes suggest this is not the case, but the problem is true.

Groups of humans follow basic social rules: they exchange favors to build relationships, form alliances, and help each other survive. In contrast, politicians’ stereotypes are those who are motivated by self-interest. The desire for power and reelection replaces the human tendency towards collaboration. But legislators must work together to formulate policies and survive in their political environment.So do they work under the same Social rules As a human society around the world?

Political scientists have recently used tools that anthropologists and sociologists have long used to study human behavior in groups. These “social network analyzes” suggest that politicians pay great attention to their social environment. They tend to find friends with similar demographic and cultural characteristics (known as “homosexuality”) and build trust by taking turns helping each other (“Reciprocity“). But past research has focused on competitive, high-stakes government agencies that have attracted the attention of the national media somewhere, such as the US Congress.

A Utah-led study evaluated for the first time the cooperation network of the Utah State Assembly, which is dominated by legislators by both gender (male) and party affiliation (Republican). The author asked a new question: Do Democrats and women still choose to work with similar colleagues, even when Republicans and men dominate the lever of power?

Despite a majority, Utah legislators are overwhelmingly initiating alliances with members within their political and gender groups, according to research. They also repay social debt and repay the benefits of policy at a high rate.

“There is a lot of literature in biology and anthropology that focuses on the importance of building trust and relationships in a constrained environment, and politically, the Utah State Council is the most constrained environment. It’s one of them, “says lead author Connor Davis. Anthropology at the University of Utah. “It only takes 45 days to decide on a year’s worth of legislation. It’s chaotic. It’s confusing. But we’re still doing it. So how does it work? “

This study was published in the journal on February 17, 2022. Human nature.

The Utah State Capitol has special rules for introducing the law. Each bill can only have a single sponsor. Members must have colleagues (“floor sponsors”) from other members in order to support the bill in their respective chambers.

Researchers investigated the sponsorship of the bill floor in the Utah State Capitol from 2005 to 2008 and analyzed the characteristics that influenced who worked with whom. They looked up gender, seniority, and political party affiliation. They found that politicians were likely to act as floor sponsors for colleagues of the same gender and party.Elder Legislature It had no effect.


Utah parliamentarians organized by political party and gender between 2005 and 2006. Each square represents one member of the Diet. The values ​​in the squares indicate the total number of members who have the same party and gender as the color of the squares. Credit: Daviset. al. (2022). Human nature

They also discovered a lot of reciprocity —sponser There was a possibility of more cooperation in the future. Members of the same sex increased the likelihood that politicians would make a round trip. Surprisingly, party affiliation reduced the chances of a round trip, more emphasis was placed on the relationships built throughout the aisle, suggesting that legislators maintained good relationships with colleagues to cooperate for the future. Did.

“In politics, you need to know how to play a game with two rule sets. There are explicit rules, like the Constitution, and implicit rules, like the humans who negotiate social relationships.” Said senior author Shane McFarlan, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Utah. “In Utah, you have to play both.”

Break the gridlock

The findings may help us understand the rise of political polarization and impasse in international democracy.

“There is an idea that a legislature like Utah can be more bipartisan than a legislature. Is that really true?” Davis asked. “You can use these research tools to break down social networks at different levels of government and see how these personal relationships affect your policies.”

The authors state that they saw a single four-year period based on the availability of Utah State Capitol data. They plan to pursue whether this is representative of other time frames. For example, do the findings apply between the midterm and presidential elections? Will extreme events such as recessions and natural disasters change the way politicians work together?

In addition, the author plans to analyze political cooperation across diverse arrays of legislatures with different rules and demographics.

“We live in a politically divided era. We are stuck at the national level. However, the state operates legislatures using different types of systems, producing different results. Which produces the best results and which produces the next best results? “” McFarlan asked. “How do you want to build a forward-looking state legislature? It won’t be a silver bullet, but it’s some difficult data we can use.”

Daniel Redhead of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology was the co-author of this study.

Are political parties hindering our health?

For more information:
Connor A. Davis et al, Utah State Capitol Formation and Cooperation Network, Human nature (2022). DOI: 10.1007 / s12110-021-09420-w

Provided by
University of Utah

Quote: In the survey, the Utah State Legislature (February 17, 2022) obtained from https: // on February 17, 2022. ) Evaluating the cooperation network

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The study evaluates the Utah State Capitol cooperation network

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