The Ideological Mapping of American Legislatures
22 Pages Posted: 14 Sep 2010 Last revised: 1 Jun 2013
Date Written: May 25, 2011
The development and elaboration of the spatial theory of voting has contributed greatly to the study of legislative decision making and elections. Statistical models that estimate the spatial locations of individual legislators have been a key contributor to this success. In addition to applications to the U.S. Congress, spatial models have been estimated for the Supreme Court, U.S. presidents, a large number of non-U.S. legislatures, and supranational organizations. But, unfortunately, a potentially fruitful laboratory for testing spatial theories of policymaking and elections, the American states, has remained relatively unexploited. Two problems have limited the empirical application of spatial theory to the states. The first is that state legislative roll call data has not yet been systematically collected for all states over time. Second, because ideal point models are based on latent scales, comparisons of ideal points across states or chambers within a state are difficult. This paper reports substantial progress on both fronts. First, we have obtained the roll call voting data for all state legislatures from the mid-1990s onward. Second, we exploit a recurring survey of state legislative candidates to enable comparisons across time, chambers, and states as well as with the U.S. Congress. The resulting mapping of America's state legislatures has tremendous potential to address numerous questions not only about state politics and policymaking, but legislative politics in general.
Keywords: State Legislatures, Ideology, Ideal Points, Parties, Bridging, Common Space
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