When analysts classify the citizens of the various American states in terms of their political differences and similarities, the standards most often imposed are in terms of partisanship and ideology. One can generally classify a state's partisan tendencies with some assurance, since we can make inferences from state voting patterns and, in some instances, party registration. Classifying electorates on the basis of ideology is riskier for the reason that available indicators of ideology are at best indirect. Politically knowledgeable observers do commonly attribute liberal or conservative tendencies to state electorates. Among the factors that enter into these impressionistic judgments are the states’ electoral affinities for liberal and conservative candidates, the ideological proclivities of their congressional delegations, and the general imprints of their unique political histories. Still, it is far from certain that state electorates’ ideological reputations are deserved. It may be an unwarranted leap of democratic faith to attribute ideological motive to ideological consequences.
For our investigation of the public opinion-policy connection in the U.S. states, the most crucial challenge is the measurement of state-level public opinion. This chapter presents our measures of state-level ideological identification and partisan identification, from CBS/NYT polls. Our overall strategy is straightforward. We simply aggregate by state the responses to the 122 national CBS/NYT telephone polls for the period 1976-88. These polls are conducted on a continuous basis, maintain the same questions for party identification and ideology throughout the time period, and use a sampling design that serves our purposes very well.