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Civil Libertarianism-Communitarianism: A State Policy Ideology Dimension

17 Pages Posted: 27 Jul 2013  

Jason Sorens

Dartmouth College - Department of Government

Date Written: July 26, 2013

Abstract

This paper investigates the existence of a second dimension of state policy ideology orthogonal to the traditional left-right dimension: civil libertarianism-communitarianism. It argues that voter attitudes toward nonviolent acts that are sometimes crimes, particularly weapons and drugs offenses, are in part distinct from their liberal or conservative ideologies, and cause systematic variation in states' policies toward these acts. The hypotheses are tested with a structural equation model of state policies that combines "confirmatory factor analysis'' with linear regression. The existence of a second dimension of state policy essentially uncorrelated with left-right ideology and loading onto gun control, marijuana, and other criminal justice policies is confirmed. Moreover, this dimension of policy ideology relates in the expected fashion to urbanization and the strength of ideological libertarianism in the state electorate. The results suggest that the libertarian-communitarian divide represents an enduring dimension of policy-making in the United States.

Keywords: state politics, criminal justice, ideology, libertarians, communitarians

Suggested Citation

Sorens, Jason, Civil Libertarianism-Communitarianism: A State Policy Ideology Dimension (July 26, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2298767 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2298767

Jason Sorens (Contact Author)

Dartmouth College - Department of Government ( email )

Hanover, NH
United States

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