Last updated February 03, 2014

CQ Roll Call’s Vote Studies – 2013 In Review

Last year’s roll call votes point to sharp and clear divisions between the two parties in Congress, with no softening of partisanship in sight.

Unity Vote Frequency Up in Senate and Down in House

The number and frequency of Senate roll call votes in which a majority of Democrats opposed a majority of Republicans rose a bit in 2013 — and the frequency of these party unity votes, 69.8 percent, was the third-highest recorded since 1953. Although the frequency of unity votes fell in the House to 68.6 percent, the past three years have seen the highest degree of persistent partisanship for Congress as a whole since World War II.
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House:
 

Number of Party Unity Votes

Votes on which a majority of voting Democrats opposed a majority of voting Republicans

Percentage of Party Unity Votes

As a share of all floor votes requiring a "yea" or "nay"

Both Parties Raise Their Support Scores

House and Senate lawmakers from both parties on average voted more often with their caucus majorities in 2013 than they did in 2012. House Republicans set a record for party support, voting on average with their caucus 92 percent of the time, up from 90 percent. Likewise, Senate Democrats set a record, raising their average party unity score to 94 percent from the previous record of 92 percent.
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Republican:
 

Average Party Unity Scores, House

Percentage of House party unity votes on which a member voted in agreement with a majority of his or her own party

Average Party Unity Scores, Senate

Percentage of Senate party unity votes on which a member voted in agreement with a majority of his or her own party

Majority Parties Victorious More Often in Both Chambers

The majority party’s success rate on votes that split the two parties rose in both chambers in 2013. House Republicans got their way on 88.6 percent of party unity votes, up from 86.0 percent in 2012 and close to a record. Senate Democrats won 84.2 percent of the time, up from 68.7 percent in 2012 though still well below their record of 92.3 percent in 2009 when the caucus held a 60-vote majority.
Democrat:
 
Republican:
 

Majority Party Victory Percentages, House

Percentage of House party unity votes on which the majority prevailed. Bars colored to show majority party in any given year.

Majority Party Victory Percentages, Senate

Percentage of Senate party unity votes on which the majority prevailed. Bars colored to show majority party in any given year.

Party Unanimity on the Rise Again

Republicans and Democrats alike voted as unanimous blocs far more frequently in 2013 on roll call votes that divided the two parties. That reversed a two-year decline in unanimous voting by the GOP, though the party fell short of setting a record. Congresswide, Democrats were unanimous more often than in any year since 1960.
Democrat:
 
Republican:
 

House

House Republicans voted unanimously 35 percent of party unity votes in 2013. It was an all-time high – up from 21 percent in 2012 and beating the previous high of 34 percent set in 2010. House Democrats voted unanimously 22 percent of the party unity votes in 2013, the highest since 23 percent in 2007.

Senate

Senate Democrats voted unanimously on 52 percent of the party unity votes in 2013 – an all-time high for either party in either chamber, up from 40 percent in 2012. The previous high was 2011’s 46 percent. Senate Republicans were unanimous on 31 percent, well above the 13 percent they recorded in 2012 and up from the 26 percent rate they had in 2011.

Obama’s Success Rate Rebounds in 2013

President Barack Obama’s success rate on votes on which he took a clear position rose in 2013, which has happened infrequently in the past in a president’s fifth year. Obama won on just 20.9 percent of House votes — a small fraction higher than in 2012. Obama won on 85.2 percent of Senate votes, close to his success scores for 2010 and 2011.
Year:
 
Fifth year in presidency:
 

Presidential Success in the House

When President Obama made his position known, he won the House's support only 20 percent of the time — about the same rate of success as in 2012. This was down from 2011’s rate and well below his his first two years when the Democrats held the House. Obama's level of success in the House exceeded Bush's 2007 low score of 15.4 percent, while Clinton had higher success scores with a Republican House in all of his six years. Clinton's lowest House score came in 1995 at 26.3 percent.

Presidential Success in the Senate

When President Obama made his position known, he won the Senate's support 85.2 percent of the time — up from his success rate from 2012 and very close to the two previous years, when he scored roughly 84 percent. Obama's 98.7 percent Senate success score in 2009 was the highest ever; second highest was 92.6 for Lyndon Johnson in 1965. Bush's high was 91.4 percent in 2002; Clinton's high was 85.5 percent in 1994.

Presidential Position Votes Rise in 2013

The share of roll call votes on which President Barack Obama took a clear position jumped in 2013 in both chambers, setting a 14-year high for the House and a two-decade high for Congress as a whole. The president took a position on 13.4 percent of House roll-call votes and on 37.1 percent of Senate roll calls (but just 16.8 percent when 71 votes on nominations were excluded).
Senate:
 
House:
 

Presidential Support Votes

Percentage of Presidential Support votes.