In response to some of the questions about our graphs on state liberalism/conservatism:
– A lot of surveys don’t include Alaska and Hawaii. I guess in the days of face-to-face surveys these places were too far to go to, and even for telephone surveys you have to deal with time zones.
– I can’t remember the sample sizes, but in the small states they’re not huge, so you can’t take seriously the exact ordering of all the states in the graphs. When David gets back in town we can take a look at the uncertainty in these estimates.
– Could we look at dispersions as well as averages within each state? Yes, but I don’t know that we’d get much out of this; dispersion measures are notoriously noisy.
– We show positive numbers as conservative and negative numbers are liberal because the number line goes from left to right.
– Yes, it would be interesting to look at other issue dimensions such as foreign policy.
– Some people asked what exactly was in our scales. From page 195 of our red-state, blue-state book:
We construct estimates for individual states using a multilevel linear model fit separately to each of the four sets of correlations, with economic and social issues scales that we constructed from the following questions in the 2000 Annenberg survey.
Economic: are tax rates a problem, favor cutting taxes or strengthening Social Security, federal government should reduce the top tax rate, federal government should adopt flat tax, federal government should spend more on Social Security, favor investing Social Security in stock market, is poverty a problem, federal government should reduce income differences, federal government should spend more on aid to mothers with young children, federal government should expend effort to eliminate many business regulations.
Social: federal government should give school vouchers, federal government should restrict abortion, federal government should ban abortion, favor death penalty, favor handgun licenses, federal government should expend effort to restrict gun purchases, are underpunished criminals a problem, is immigration a problem, favor gays in military, federal government should expend effort to stop job discrimination against gays, federal government should expend effort to stop job discrimination against blacks, federal government should expend effort to stop job discrimination against women, federal government should allow school prayer.
We recode each question so that lower numbers indicate liberal responses and higher numbers conservative ones. We then add the responses and rescale. Unfortunately, the 2004 version of this survey did not ask a full range of economic and social issue questions and so we were not able to construct good scales for that year.