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Author Topic: State policy liberalism rankings  (Read 6613 times)
JasonPSorens
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State policy liberalism rankings
« on: June 22, 2007, 08:37:23 pm »

Over the past few months, I've been working with two coauthors on a massive database of state and local public policies. We just completed it today, coding more than 130 different policies, from assault weapons bans to cigarette tax rates to public funding of abortions to campaign finance limits on PAC's. The data will be released to the public within a few months, as soon as we get a published article out of it.

What we've found is that a single underlying dimension accounts for much of the variation in policies across states. That dimension, for lack of a better term, can be called "state policy liberalism," because states that score high on the ranking would be considered "liberal," while states that score low would usually be considered "conservative." So what about a libertarian-populist dimension? Does one exist? Well, perhaps, but if it does, it's very weak, merely a slight tendency, possibly ephemeral. I will say that on that 2nd dimension, Illinois, Texas, Maryland, and Virginia end up at one extreme and Vermont, New Hampshire, Alaska, and Montana end up at the other. You may draw your own conclusions if you wish, but I'd like to study it a little more before definitely saying that a) this second dimension exists, and b) it captures "state policy populism" or something of that nature.

For now, I will give you the ranking of states on the liberalism index, along with each state's "liberalism score."

New York   11.34
New Jersey   10.92
Massachusetts   9.21
California   9.03
Maryland   8.13
Rhode Island   7.02
Hawaii   6.46
Connecticut   6.42
Illinois   4.45
Maine   3.66
Vermont   3.41
Oregon   3.01
Washington   2.52
Ohio   2.2
Delaware   2.16
Minnesota   0.69
Michigan   0.44
Florida   0.28
Colorado   0.25
New Hampshire   0.04
Wisconsin   -0.01
Alaska   -0.44
Pennsylvania   -0.6
Montana   -1.26
Nevada   -1.38
Arizona   -1.57
Iowa   -1.94
North Carolina   -1.95
New Mexico   -2.01
West Virginia   -2.48
Virginia   -2.58
Louisiana   -2.76
Nebraska   -2.78
Kentucky   -3.13
Indiana   -3.14
Kansas   -3.16
Missouri   -3.35
Georgia   -3.38
Idaho   -3.41
Utah   -3.56
South Carolina   -3.58
South Dakota   -3.89
Arkansas   -4.27
Oklahoma   -4.28
Tennessee   -4.3
Texas   -4.38
Wyoming   -4.78
North Dakota   -5.41
Alabama   -5.58
Mississippi   -6.26

You'll notice that New Hampshire is pretty much right at the mean, and just slightly more liberal than the median. However, we didn't take into account the new laws passed this year, including civil unions and the smoking ban. NH will definitely look more liberal next year.
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Re: State policy liberalism rankings - what makes a state liberal?
« Reply #1 on: June 22, 2007, 08:38:20 pm »

So what makes a state liberal rather than conservative?

1) Liberal states impose more gun controls, particularly bans on "assault weapons" & high-capacity magazines, mandatory child locks, worse rules for open and concealed carry, and so on, while conservative states impose fewer gun controls.

2) Liberal states tend not to have state constitutional amendments prohibiting same-sex marriage, while conservative states do. They are also more likely to recognize domestic partnerships, civil unions, or same-sex marriage.

3) Liberal states tend to have higher minimum wages, mandate that employers provide short-term disability, and lack right-to-work laws; conservative states are the opposite.

4) Liberal states deregulate electricity and natural gas but keep telecommunications regulated; conservative states do the opposite.

5) Liberal states provide public funding for abortions and impose fewer restrictions for abortion; conservative states restrict and do not fund abortion.

6) Liberal states ban fireworks, smoking in bars and restaurants, talking on a cell phone while driving, and riding a bicycle without a helmet; conservative states are more laissez-faire on these issues.

7) Liberal states have lower gas, alcohol, and sales taxes and derive less revenue from fees and charges, but they have higher tobacco, property, individual income, and corporate income taxes, as well as higher government debt; conservative states are the opposite.

8) Liberal states are more likely than conservative states to have wetlands protection statutes, state-level endangered species acts, and comprehensive land-use planning.

9) Liberal states impose more regulations on health insurance companies than do conservative states.

10) Liberal states have lower incarceration rates than conservative states but have more police per capita. Liberal states tend to arrest fewer people for victimless crimes, but the effect here is weak.

11) Liberal states impose stricter limits on political contributions by individuals than conservative states do, but they do not necessarily impose stricter limits on corporate and union contributions.

12) Liberal states are more likely to have medical marijuana or to have decriminalized marijuana possession; they also typically have lower maximum sentences for marijuana and do not have mandatory minimums. However, liberal states aren't necessarily more likely to make marijuana possession and cultivation a misdemeanor rather than a felony.

13) Once you correct for federal grants, poverty rates, and population density, liberal states spend more money than conservative states on administration, environment and natural resources, public safety, and "other." However, they don't really spend more on education or social services, surprisingly.

14) Liberal states seem to impose more regulations on homeschoolers, although the effect is weak.

So which is better: liberal states or conservative states? From the perspective of liberty, neither extreme is very good. Overall, though, I'd say conservative states have the advantage. But on some issues that libertarians might view as important - such gambling, prostitution, regulations on private schools, seat belt laws, helmet laws, local government decentralization, tort reform, eminent domain, sobriety checkpoints, and so on - there really isn't much correlation to the liberal-conservative dimension.
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How can NH improve?
« Reply #2 on: June 22, 2007, 09:08:35 pm »

Where can NH do better? Some of these are not surprising, but some you may not have been aware of:

1) NH has the 2nd highest property taxes in the country once you use the right measure. NH also has the 2nd highest corporate income taxes in the country. I think the Tax Foundation's measures actually overstate how good NH and AK are. Once you exclude gas taxes and use the right measure of the size of the state economy, Tennessee, Texas, South Dakota, Colorado, and Alabama all have lower total taxes than NH, and Alaska ranks 19th.

2) Fiscal decentralization. NH is a little below average in terms of how much revenue is raised at the local rather than state level. Only 34% of taxes are raised locally in NH now. This was probably higher before the statewide property tax came in. VT is the most centralized state in the country, BTW; CO is the most decentralized.

3) NH is good on gun laws, though not quite the very best (AK is overall). NH has child access prevention laws and gun dealer licensing and could be better on transporting handguns in your car (you need a CC permit, which almost makes permit-less open carry pointless).

4) NH has mandatory alcohol server training and keg registration; many other states do not.

5) NH could decriminalize the first marijuana possession offense. If Mississippi can do it, surely we can. A narrowly crafted bill that doesn't try to do too much should be able to pass. Some states also make small-scale marijuana cultivation a misdemeanor; it is currently a felony in NH.

6) NH doesn't require teenagers to wear a helmet on a motorcycle, but it does require them to wear a helmet on a bicycle!

7) NH authorizes authoritarian sobriety checkpoints! Gah!

8) Social gaming, such as playing poker with friends, is illegal in NH! Whaaa...? "Aggravated gambling" is also a felony in NH, and slots, casinos, and racetracks have not been legalized.

9) NH does not have tax credits or deductions for private school scholarships, which a few states do have.

10) NH requires private schools to receive explicit approval from the state before they can operate! Most states don't have this stupid law.

11) NH's standardized testing, notification, and recordkeeping requirements for homeschoolers are still more onerous than most states'.

12) NH has a state wetlands program and associated regulatory statutes.

13) Unfortunately, NH is now one of the few states with a higher-than-federal minimum wage. Let's hope Republicans man up and repeal this if they get elected again.

14) NH does not allow health insurers to turn down individual applicants ("guaranteed issue"). NH also requires small businesses to provide COBRA and mandatory group conversion coverage. Most egregiously, NH is one of the 25 states that mandates direct access to specialists, a regulation that increases health insurance costs. NH also licenses medical plan directors and mandates that health insurance cover numerous benefits, amounting to roughly a 45% increase in premiums, which is one of the highest in the nation (compare Idaho at 21%, Delaware at 25%). This is a major area: in terms of helping the less fortunate, repealing these regulations is probably the most important thing we could accomplish.

15) NH now of course has a comprehensive smoking ban even more restrictive than California's. At least it's not as bad as RI, NY, OH, or NJ. NH also prohibits employers from discriminating against smokers, even prohibiting them from charging them higher health insurance premiums!

16) NH has deregulated electricity, but not natural gas, telecommunications, or cable.

17) NH currently licenses 25 different occupations, which is about average. Colorado licenses only 11, Pennsylvania 13, Michigan 14.

18) NH of course has a state monopoly on distilled spirits; however, NH's effective tax rates on spirits and wine are the lowest in the country, so this might not be the thing to attack.

19) NH has a 3-day waiting period to get married, which seems a bit silly.

20) NH has overly strict regulations on grassroots PAC contributions to candidates and political parties. Grassroots PACs are funded by individuals, not corporations, and should be viewed as a positive part of a competitive political system, IMO. NH's regulations on corporations & unions are just as strict or stricter, though.

These suggestions are things that I think could be done relatively soon in NH, because they are all areas where NH is no better, or even worse, than the average state. There are plenty of areas where NH is better than the average state - mostly in government spending, taxes, and employment. But although NH doesn't spend a lot, it regulates the economy in many ways that I never realized.
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Re: State policy liberalism rankings
« Reply #3 on: June 22, 2007, 09:39:28 pm »

Very interesting...

Quote
Cool Social gaming, such as playing poker with friends, is illegal in NH! Whaaa...? "Aggravated gambling" is also a felony in NH, and slots, casinos, and racetracks have not been legalized.
NH has racetracks that have highly regulated poker.  It has the lottery and allows charity poker all over the place.

Quote
13) Unfortunately, NH is now one of the few states with a higher-than-federal minimum wage. Let's hope Republicans man up and repeal this if they get elected again.
The political climate in any state is against repealing an increase in the min. wage.  However, the federal government passed a new min. wage that is I think the exact amount NH has and it will be phased in over a couple years.  So this problem will be gone in a couple years as long as the line is held in NH.

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JasonPSorens
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Re: State policy liberalism rankings
« Reply #4 on: June 22, 2007, 11:15:17 pm »

Very interesting...

Quote
Cool Social gaming, such as playing poker with friends, is illegal in NH! Whaaa...? "Aggravated gambling" is also a felony in NH, and slots, casinos, and racetracks have not been legalized.
NH has racetracks that have highly regulated poker.  It has the lottery and allows charity poker all over the place.

I do show that NH allows charity gaming, but almost all states do. I got my data on racetracks from the American Gaming Association, http://www.americangaming.org/ . I didn't bother coding lotteries because they're state-controlled and most states have them. But they might matter for the liberalism vs. conservatism index, now that I think about it.

Quote
Quote
13) Unfortunately, NH is now one of the few states with a higher-than-federal minimum wage. Let's hope Republicans man up and repeal this if they get elected again.
The political climate in any state is against repealing an increase in the min. wage.  However, the federal government passed a new min. wage that is I think the exact amount NH has and it will be phased in over a couple years.  So this problem will be gone in a couple years as long as the line is held in NH.

True enough, that's probably the way to go.
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Re: State policy liberalism rankings
« Reply #5 on: June 23, 2007, 02:18:19 am »

I do show that NH allows charity gaming, but almost all states do. I got my data on racetracks from the American Gaming Association, http://www.americangaming.org/ . I didn't bother coding lotteries because they're state-controlled and most states have them. But they might matter for the liberalism vs. conservatism index, now that I think about it.

Info on NH's 4 racetrack casinos
http://www.thelodgeatbelmont.com/table-games/ Animal racing plus Blackjack, Craps & Poker and this is very close to Porcfest.
http://www.hinsdalegreyhound.com/
http://www.seabrookgreyhoundpark.com/
http://www.rockinghampark.com/
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Re: State policy liberalism rankings
« Reply #6 on: June 23, 2007, 12:40:59 pm »

I do show that NH allows charity gaming, but almost all states do. I got my data on racetracks from the American Gaming Association, http://www.americangaming.org/ . I didn't bother coding lotteries because they're state-controlled and most states have them. But they might matter for the liberalism vs. conservatism index, now that I think about it.

Info on NH's 4 racetrack casinos
http://www.thelodgeatbelmont.com/table-games/ Animal racing plus Blackjack, Craps & Poker and this is very close to Porcfest.
http://www.hinsdalegreyhound.com/
http://www.seabrookgreyhoundpark.com/
http://www.rockinghampark.com/

That's weird. Even their 2007 "State of the States" report doesn't list any of these, under either organized poker locations or racetrack casinos. I'll write them for an explanation.
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Re: State policy liberalism rankings
« Reply #7 on: June 23, 2007, 09:58:30 pm »

I didn't bother coding lotteries because they're state-controlled and most states have them.

And in point of fact, New Hampshire was the very first state to enact that sort of tax on innumeracy.
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Re: State policy liberalism rankings
« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2007, 09:12:09 am »

An update on NH's racetrack casinos... They are run on a charitable gaming license, so they don't count as "commercial racetrack casinos" in the AGA's parlance. I do have NH counted as allowing pari-mutuel betting and charitable gaming.
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Re: State policy liberalism rankings
« Reply #9 on: June 27, 2007, 12:48:48 pm »

An update on NH's racetrack casinos... They are run on a charitable gaming license, so they don't count as "commercial racetrack casinos" in the AGA's parlance.

Cool.  That is likely a more libertarian way to run casinos, anyway.  Much of the profits go straight from the casino to help people; whereas, with regular casinos, the government wastes lots of the money and then creates huge organizations that give a little money to make more government schools or something similar.  Less government oversite + less money going to the government = more money going to actually help people.
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Re: State policy liberalism rankings
« Reply #10 on: June 28, 2007, 06:14:33 pm »

Very interesting report. Thanks. It does show we have plenty to do when we get to NH. Obviously, you guys who are there already have to hold the line until more of us can arrive!
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Re: State policy liberalism rankings
« Reply #11 on: June 28, 2007, 07:26:43 pm »

Freakin' New York  Evil

I look forward to reading more Jason.
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Re: State policy liberalism rankings
« Reply #12 on: June 29, 2007, 02:38:55 pm »

All right, after including more variables and doing more stringent testing, I can definitely say that a second dimension exists, and that it captures a big state/urban-small state/rural divide. Urban states arrest and incarcerate more people, have more police per capita, have stricter gun controls, are more likely to have the death penalty, and have laxer campaign finance laws than rural states. However, they also are less likely to have state control over alcohol distribution, generally tax tobacco less and are less likely to ban smoking, and may have slightly lower taxes and spending all around. Here's the ranking of states on this 2nd dimension, from "most typically rural" to "most typically urban":

Vermont   -9.444133
Alaska   -6.357957
Maine   -4.608995
Montana   -4.426473
New Hampshire   -4.197016
Washington   -3.869808
West Virginia   -3.628355
Rhode Island   -2.969142
Delaware   -2.854773
Michigan   -2.814129
Oregon   -2.810474
North Dakota   -2.362043
Pennsylvania   -1.582302
Nevada   -1.529415
Wyoming   -1.519855
Massachusetts   -1.389546
Ohio   -1.301381
Idaho   -1.242026
Wisconsin   -1.210991
Iowa   -1.180214
Minnesota   -1.067283
South Dakota   -0.9576775
Arizona   -0.7726434
New Mexico   0.0156589
Hawaii   0.2754832
Florida   0.3589562
Utah   0.6253533
Kentucky   0.6309094
Arkansas   0.7610307
North Carolina   0.9469466
Alabama   1.036781
Tennessee   1.141203
Colorado   1.16474
Kansas   1.593225
Indiana   1.697665
Nebraska   2.007644
New Jersey   2.04272
South Carolina   2.044541
Louisiana   2.253513
Mississippi   2.363542
Missouri   2.412809
New York   2.615239
Connecticut   3.066191
Oklahoma   3.130142
Georgia   3.542042
Virginia   4.229001
Texas   4.265963
Maryland   4.870289
California   4.877539
Illinois   10.1275

Finally, here's a plot showing where states come down on the urban-rural and liberal-conservative dimensions. Liberal states are on the far right, conservative states on the far left (Component 1). Urban states are on the top and rural states on the bottom (Component 2).

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Re: State policy liberalism rankings
« Reply #13 on: July 02, 2007, 10:33:11 am »

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Re: State policy liberalism rankings
« Reply #14 on: July 02, 2007, 12:33:48 pm »

"In fact, more than a quarter of the state's 424 lawmakers are Massholes..."

WTF. They've already gotten ahead of us!
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