Some work I did recently for a paper entitled “Co-opted: An Analysis of the Behavior and Influence of Large Freshman Classes in the United States House of Representatives.”
It is of course difficult to draw any broad conclusions about party unity - the percentage of votes on which individual members voted with the majority of his or her party and against the majority of the opposition party - from just these four graphs, which represent the four largest freshman classes of a single party in the U.S. House in the last four decades. I do believe it raises questions about the conventional media narrative concerning the influence of large freshman classes, often viewed as idealists who will challenge the “politics-as-usual” status quo in Washington generally and in their party specifically. At least in terms of voting behavior, we do not see a great deal of deviation from the party leadership during these members’ first terms. And while this is inherently a small sample size, the difference of time and party is striking.