Free State Project Forum

Archive => Which State? => Topic started by: JasonPSorens on January 17, 2003, 01:49:34 pm

Title: Citizen Ideologies in the States
Post by: JasonPSorens on January 17, 2003, 01:49:34 pm
Berry, William D., Evan J. Ringquist, Richard C. Fording, and Russell L. Hanson. 1998. "Measuring Citizen and Government Ideology in the American States, 1960-93," American Journal of Political Science 42, 1 (Jan.): 327-48.

The above article introduced a new measure of citizen ideology by state, and it has since been updated through 1999.  They've also created a state government ideology measure, but what is of interest to the FSP is the ideology of our state's citizens.  This measure is apparently considered the state of the art in American political science.

The measure gives year by year scores for citizen ideologies based on vote percentages for liberal or conservative candidates, as graded by the ADA and AFL-CIO.  (It's a lot more complicated than that, but you have to read the article to understand the whole process.)  In recent years "liberal" in these grades basically means "big government."  Lower scores are more conservative, higher scores more liberal - thus, for the FSP, lower scores are better.

The authors note that the scores in smaller states are less stable because of measurement error (given small congressional delegations).  Thus, I've averaged the scores from 1992-1999 to get a good sense of average conservatism in our states in recent years.  Here are the scores:

Idaho - 26.3 (best)
Alaska - 33.1
Wyoming  - 33.9
New Hampshire - 36.3
Montana - 43.1
South Dakota - 46.8
Delaware - 52.1
North Dakota - 54.7
Maine - 64.5
Vermont - 74.2 (worst)

To put these scores in perspective: the only states more liberal than Vermont over the same period were Massachusetts (77.9) and Hawaii (79.0).  The only state more conservative than Idaho was Oklahoma (23.6).
Title: Re:Citizen Ideologies in the States
Post by: JasonPSorens on January 17, 2003, 02:13:34 pm
One could well make the argument that any state scoring about 50 on the above scale is so far gone that it would be almost impossible for us to turn it around.  Certainly, Vermont, a state as left-wing as Massachusetts, now seems hopeless.  Maine's leftishness combined with its population makes it undesirable, and Delaware and North Dakota, though right on the cusp, are sufficiently far below other options that one might wonder whether it's even worth considering them.
Title: Re:Citizen Ideologies in the States
Post by: Zxcv on January 18, 2003, 08:06:51 pm
Thanks, Jason, I'll add this row to my big spreadsheet.

Just a question. If it measures citizen ideologies by looking at who gets elected, then there is the possibility the conservative voters are just under the number needed to tilt elections, right? For example, there is a big difference between a state with 10% conservatives and 40% conservatives, but under certain circumstances it is possible they'd be equally unlikely to elect conservative legislators.

I also wonder about equating conservatives with freedom lovers, but that seems to be a general problem. We make that approximation but I wonder how valid it is.
Title: Re:Citizen Ideologies in the States
Post by: Zxcv on January 18, 2003, 08:27:39 pm
OK, I added it. I didn't weigh it very high, so of course it did not change much. Your statement above seems to be saying this should get a heavy weight. Do you really think it's that indicative?


I tried another weight vector, one which gave this row 20% of the total weight. As usual WY is first and ME dragging up 10th place, but VT is #2! Oh, well, so much for that theory...   ;)
Title: Re:Citizen Ideologies in the States
Post by: JasonPSorens on January 19, 2003, 03:21:48 pm
The variable actually tracks the weighted average of candidates' "liberal-ness," where the weighting factor is percentage of the vote in the last election, not whether the candidate was elected or not.  So it's quite nuanced in that way and gives a continuous measure of "liberal-ness."

I looked at some of the ratings that were used to determine "liberal-ness": the ADA and AFL-CIO ratings of House members in 1999, for example.  Out of 20 votes in the ADA rating, on only 1 or 2 issues would libertarians have agreed with the ADA position.  On all 10 of the votes in the AFL-CIO rating, libertarians would disagree with the AFL-CIO position.  So "conservative" in these rankings appears to be nearly identical to "libertarian."  States with higher rankings are therefore probably very anti-libertarian in citizen attitudes.  Of course, it would be possible to go back and create a purer libertarian measure, but judging from the ratings I looked at, it would hardly change the results at all.

Why weight this variable highly?  Well, it's a composite variable, so it takes into account a lot of factors that are broken up on the current spreadsheet/State Data page.  It's sort of a summation of political culture in itself, rather than just one indicator of political culture, like taxes, spending, gun control, & homeschooling regs.  Also, because it comes down to 1999 and measures citizen attitudes directly, it gets around the problem of some states' trending left recently but still having a "legacy" of smaller government.  This is arguably the case with Delaware, which is starting to trend heavily Democrat, but retains a fairly lean state government from decades of fiscal conservatism.  So you could make the case that this variable is more important & useful than all the policy variables we have.

Now, as I've mentioned before, I think including too many variables in the spreadsheet will confuse people, so I'm not sure I even want to add this one to the small spreadsheet, even though it's my baby, so to speak. ;)  But let's certainly throw it into your big spreadsheet, Paul.
Title: Re:Citizen Ideologies in the States
Post by: RidleyReport on January 20, 2003, 11:25:30 am
Jason wrote:

<<I think including too many variables in the spreadsheet will confuse people, so I'm not sure I even want to add this one>>

I vote you add it, because it is by definition a simplification of the whole ideology issue.  I found it very helpful, and in practical terms it boosted ID, NH and WY in my thinking.
Title: Re:Citizen Ideologies in the States
Post by: Kelton on January 20, 2003, 11:39:41 am
    Many of the social customs and differences among cultures have a unique history.  A major factor in citizen ideologies in the different states comes from the peoples' heritage .

Ever notice how somber and soft-spoken the senator from South Dakota, Tom Daschle (D) is?  Other than the fact that he is a masterful politician and well-trained in the art of being a politician, a significant portion of his office-holding power comes from the good people of South Dakota's Native American population who value holding one's tongue and chosing words very carefully and thoughtfully, which is a value that some say permeates through the culture of South Dakota.
Many people throughout the Intermountain west have a Basque heritage; Boise, Idaho boasts one the largest modern Basque communities in the world.  But particularly in Wyoming, people have a Basque heritage from more than one hundred years ago when Basques began immigrating to the United States.  Those ealy immigrants who came from the Pyrenees mountains in their native Europe came to work as sheep-herders and ranch-hands.  In their old native lands, there was much emphasis on nobility; but as wage laborers when they arrived, they began the tradition of referring to everyone Basque as a fellow "nobleman". This idea continues to influence the culture in Wyoming and their emphasis on equality. (
Much could also be said about the cultural and historical factors that played upon the national stage and were targeted in the West, resulting in Wyoming becoming the first state to allow the vote for women. (

      The Amish sect, among many others, has autonomous, self-sufficient communities and communities in all of our candidate states.  They have demonstrated a determination to live their religion despite being the subject of tremendous persecution for their beliefs, particularly by much government intervention.  Most notably, they have attained many concessions from the government, such as opting- out of social security from the federal government, they do most of this through peaceful non-cooperation despite the fact that most of them are very apolitical and do not even vote. (

    Throughout many parts of the West, Mormon settlers helped establish communities. much of the southern part of the state of Idaho was settled by Mormon settlers who originally were part of a proposed ‘territory of Deseret’  comprising a large area from Wyoming to California.  Congress later accepted the proposed territory as present day Utah, whose politics were largely shaped by a struggle to achieve statehood from the federal government who, under Republican leadership, tried at every turn to destroy the will of the Mormon people in Utah, such as when U.S. President James Buchanan sent an army of federal troops to “restore order and forcibly install a governor to replace Brigham Young” when the Saints tried to build their temple in Salt Lake City.  

This was done only a short time before the civil war, effectively dispatching the largest peace-time military effort to ever be sent to squash a civil rebellion, and thus dangerously depleting Union troops.   Congress spent much time writing laws to supress the Mormons, The 1882 Edmunds act was an amendment to strengthen the Anti-Bigamy Law of 1862, "it declared polygamy a felony, with penalty on conviction. The law disfranchised polygamists and declared them ineligible for public office.  Polygamists, whether in practice or merely in belief, were disqualified for jury service.  All registration and elective offices in Utah Territory were declared vacant and a board of five members, known as the Utah Commission, was to be appointed by the president to assume temporarily all duties pertaining to elections. The board would issue certificates of election to those eligible for that office and those lawfully elected. The Edmunds Act gave to the Utah Commission power to deprive citizens of their civil rights without a trial, which is not found in any other such federal legislation of this country or in its jurisprudence, according to Larson in "The Americanization of Utah for Statehood". (Larson, pp. 95-96.) " From the website, A Chronology of Federal Legislation On Polygamy (

 The most notable characteristics of the Mormon people throughout their history have been the issue of polygamy and the building of Zion, which was only ever a voluntary ‘utopia-like’ society where there were to be a people “of one heart, one mind, dwelling in righteousness with no poor among them.”  It is interesting to note that many families who remained polygamous in Utah escaped to other adjoining states for refuge when Utah became a state and the Mormon (Latter-day Saint) people officially gave-up the practice.  Unlike the previously mentioned Amish groups, Mormons today actively embrace living in the modern world, sending out tens of thousands of missionaries throughout the world every year and enjoying modern conveniences, saying that modern technology is a gift from God through inspired minds in the exercise of freedom (Many modern-day prophetical “revelations” give praise to the U.S. Constitution).  Mormons  also actively embrace politics and even though they comprise less than 15% of the population in Idaho, they comprise a sizeably larger number of political leaders in Idaho, interestingly though, despite the supreme Mormon doctrine of “agency”, or freedom of choice, the majority of most Mormons today are swayed by the religious- right members of the Republican party. ( ( (
Title: Re:Citizen Ideologies in the States
Post by: Zxcv on January 21, 2003, 04:50:22 pm
Maybe you did that wrong.  VT should have moved down, not up.  Remember that higher numbers are worse for what Jason is talking about.

No, I did it right. It of course depends on what the rest of the weight vector looks like. In this case going from 0% to 20% on this Ideology criterion moved VT from a very solid 2nd place to just barely in 2nd place. The vector in question has 30% of the weight for the Pop variable, 10 for Vot, 10 for Gov2, 10 for Dep, 10 for number of govt. employees, and 10 for Urbanized Areas (I don't like big cities). I'm not saying it's the smartest choice, just that it's a simple one I happened to use to play with this Ideology variable. I have several canned weight vectors I cut and paste into the weight column to see how emphasizing different things moves the rankings around.

BTW the other thing affecting this is that I use Ted's normalization, which does not zero out the last place state like Jason's does. So VT wouldn't be penalized so much for being in last place.

If anyone wants to play with my larger spreadsheet send me a message with your email address and I will send it.
Title: Re:Citizen Ideologies in the States
Post by: freedomroad on March 26, 2003, 03:56:09 pm
Zxcv just posted new and interesting information about the ideology of the 10 state's elected officials on the Wyoming thread.

It is interesting how these ratings compare to that of the states' citizen ideology.

Robert tipped me off to Tim Condon's new paper,
in which Tim cited the RLC Liberty index.

Of course the RLC never mentions David Nolan, they just swiped his idea with their "libergraph".

I looked at the rollcall votes for last year, it looks like a good libertarian index although some of the votes are hard to understand, and I had one question about a vote to fund 5 school-choice demonstration projects to the tune of $50 million - the position of the compiler of this index was in favor of this program. I have a problem with this for two reasons: not in the Constitution, and "school choice" includes such state education programs as charter schools. However most libertarian think tanks favor "school choice" as well, so the compiler is in the "think-tank mainstream" on this one (and they are all wrong if you ask me).

But generally the index appears to be a pretty reliable one, for us.

I had a problem with how to rate our states. First, how do you weigh senate vs house positions? Some of our states have two reps, some one. The states with two thus do not have everyone in the state voting for them. However I just averaged senate and house seats as if they were equivalent. The other issue is, do we want a most recent snapshot, or the whole 10 years of data he has? I opted to go the whole 10 year route, thus taking in more elected officials (some who are no longer there) and more roll call votes. This gives us more data points. The downside of course is that it may ignore recent trends, but oh, well! I have the little spreadsheet where I put this together if anyone wants to check my work.

Here are the ratings of Congresspersons elected in these states over the last 10 years, based on personal freedom. Higher numbers are better:

WY 67.4
ID 65.6
AK 64.0
NH 61.7
MT 57.0
SD 47.8
ME 47.5
VT 42.0
DE 39.3
ND 36.3

Here are the economic freedom ratings.

WY 79.2
NH 74.7
ID 72.3
AK 67.0
MT 52.4
DE 51.5
SD 50.0
ME 45.4
VT 32.7
ND 27.0

Here are both ratings combined, for a freedom rating:

WY 73.3
ID 68.9
NH 68.2
AK 65.5
MT 54.7
SD 48.9
ME 46.4
DE 45.4
VT 37.3
ND 31.6

Interesting how this confirms, via a completely different route, the earlier spreadsheet analysis (using indicators like seatbelt laws and gun laws) that WY, ID and NH are our 3 most free states. And big surprise, ME is not last place this time.    Can someone tell me how ND does such a good job of electing such a collection of authoritarian jerks? What's wrong with them, anyway?

I'm getting very confident we have a good picture of the culture of freedom in our states, lately.

I will add this rating to the big spreadsheet. Not sure whether I should break it out into two rows (economic and personal freedom) or just used the combined measure. Probably go the latter route...
Title: Re:Citizen Ideologies in the States
Post by: exitus on March 26, 2003, 04:57:28 pm
Here's a curious report I find amusing, though I put little value on it. . .

   Apparently, many political science researchers have made use of governor's speeches as a proxy means of estimating the general political philosophy of the electorate in each state. State-of-the-state addresses are especially valuable because in them governors present their formal agendas in a speech before the legislature in a highly ceremonial setting and ". . .because these speeches are records of the governors’ agendas, studies have made use of them to estimate the impact of audiences . . ."  

Influences on Realism in Governors’ State-of-the-State Speeches

Daniel DiLeo

Penn State, Altoona
To be published in Commonwealth: A Journal of Political Science, forthcoming.

"Abstract: The degree of realism in governors’ rhetoric can suggest a number of possible dynamics in the relationship between governors and their constituents and between governors and other political elites. This study uses Roderick Hart’s Diction to measure the levels of "realism" in all the available state-of-the-state speeches given by different governors in 1991 and 1998. [shown below are the 1998 results] It finds that levels of realism in governors’ agenda-setting speeches are positively correlated with the liberalism of their electorates.

The paper explains how the author did this by using a content-analysis computer program that measured word length and variety and dictionaries to first profile "a text’s lexical content," and assigning a score of "realism" to that text then comparing that with a complex analysis of who the audience was in the legislature and context of the speeches.  Texts that were more abstract scored lower realism points.
(Best to read the paper to get a handle on how the author did this research). (

The results from 1998 Speeches:
listed by rank of realism,
    State      Governor Party    Score 
    New Hampshire Shaheen  D      52.5
    Vermont       Dean     D      51.5
    South Dakota  Janklow  R      51.3
    Maine         King     I      51.1
    Delaware      Carper   D      50.7
    North Dakota  Schafer  R      49.6
    Alaska        Knowles  D      49.5
    Wyoming       Geringer R      47.7    
    Idaho         Batt     R      47.7

According to this author, the degree of "realism" found in governor's speeches, as he defines it, is also a measure of a state's 'liberalism'.  
Title: Re:Citizen Ideologies in the States
Post by: Hank on August 25, 2003, 02:44:54 pm
I'd rather a state without citizen ideology.
I'd rather a state where citizens thought for themselves.
Title: Re:Citizen Ideologies in the States
Post by: Kelton on August 25, 2003, 06:33:37 pm
Hank, did you even read what this  "citizen ideology" is measuring and all about?  This is a measurement of each and every individual vote.  Or are you just trolling about?
Title: Re:Citizen Ideologies in the States
Post by: Hank on August 25, 2003, 06:55:01 pm
The use of the term "ideology" implies to me a people who, as a group, think similarly "groupthink" and do not think for themselves as much as a free people should.  Reading the posts here reminded me of that striking antithesis to individual free thought. That is why I wrote:
I'd rather a state without citizen ideology.
I'd rather a state where citizens thought for themselves.

Your question gave me cause to search for a hyperlink to explain this.
Here is one.
n 1: an orientation that characterizes the thinking of a group or
nation [syn: political orientation, political theory]
Title: Re:Citizen Ideologies in the States
Post by: Sean Coven on August 25, 2003, 07:30:53 pm
But generally the index appears to be a pretty reliable one, for us.

I take issue with this. The RLC Liberty Index is obviously rather slanted in favor of Republicans.

The perfect example of this is embodied in my own Congressman, Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD6). Bartlett is a textbook conservative: anti-tax, pro-gun, anti-welfare, etc.. But like any conservative, he is staunchly anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage. The RLC lists him as an Enterpriser.

I am a Bartlett supporter and will most definitely be voting for him next election, but he is by a no means an Enterpriser. The Liberty Index would seem to give him a bonus point for being a Republican. It does the same for Olympia Snowe, a Maine Republican with an unstable record; she is listed as being Centrist. Connie Morella, a Maryland Republican with a lock-stop liberal voting record, was rated Centrist as well. Rhode Island's Lincoln Chaffee, practically liberal Republicanism incarnate, was counted as Centrist, too.

And maybe it's just me, but either the Liberty Index Lookup is not working or it doesn't list a single Republican as being statist or authoritarian.

It's not accurate at all. It's tremendously partisan.
Title: Re:Citizen Ideologies in the States
Post by: Kelton on August 27, 2003, 04:09:09 pm

Here is one.
n 1: an orientation that characterizes the thinking of a group or
nation [syn: political orientation, political theory]

That is just one definition, it applies to individuals too. Society at large is composed of individuals.

What do you propose in measuring how each and every individual voter voted in an election?  Before you explain away the whole FSP as even having an ideology because we are individuals, why not just accept that it is possible to measure these things, clumsy as it may be to do so.    

For what it measured, I can't think of a better way to examine the political sentiment of those individual residents of a state than by measuring how much they sided with the outright statist position at the voting polls.  Of course, you could argue that statists are much more handsome in North Dakota and Vermont and the majority only choose good-looking candidates, but no matter what, if you are going to measure the political culture of residents in a state, just look at how they vote.