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Study Suggests Some Political Conflict Is Good For Local Government

Dr. Scot Schraufnagel is Chair of NIU's Department of Political Science
Dr. Scot Schraufnagel is Chair of NIU's Department of Political Science

Political conflict can be both helpful and harmful to local government. According to a new study, which it is depends on the nature of the conflict.

A Northern Illinois University researcher surveyed city councils and other municipal bodies to examine two types of conflict. Political Science Chair Scot Schraufnagel said "policy conflict" is when lawmakers have differences of opinion on specific issues and laws.

“Policy conflict does not detract from governing board effectiveness," he said. "In fact, there’s a positive relationship between higher policy conflict and the perception of a better functioning legislature.”

The other type is "relational conflict."

“People sabotaging someone else’s legislative initiative just simply because they don’t like them, or so forth," he said, "so it’s about personalities, and not about policy."

This, according to Schraufnagel, leads to a win-at-all-costs mentality and actively prevents cooperation. He said the study’s conclusions could have strong implications for who people choose at the ballot box.

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