A previous post discussed two dimensions of political ideology (social and economic) among Kentucky voters. It was shown that Kentucky is one of the most socially conservative states in the country, but fairly middle-of-the-road in terms of economic policy.
An alternative method for measuring state ideology is promoted by William Berry and his colleages at the University of Kentucky: http://www.uky.edu/~rford/stateideology.html. They create two different state ideology scores: citizen ideology and government ideology. The citizen ideology score is derived from the ideological positions of the members of congress from that state, as measured by interest group ratings. Theoretically, according to these researchers, the ideological position of these representatives can be considered a proxy for those of their constituents. The government ideology score is a combination of measures of the ideological position of the governor and the representatives in the state legislature. This measure indicates the ideological “center of gravity” in the state government in any given year. Each of these measures is represented on a 0-100 scale, with higher values indicating more “liberal” ideologies among the citizenry and state government.
For 2006 (the latest the data is available), Kentucky’s citizen ideology score was 38.9 while its government ideology score was 26.6. The average amongst the 50 states for both measures is right around 50. Thus, by these measures, Kentucky’s citizens are slightly more conservative than the national average (about the same as Alabama, Kansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Montana, and Mississippi). It should be noted that this measure does not distinguish between social and economic policy.
Interestingly, Kentucky’s state government is much more conservative in comparison with other state governments, and more conservative than even its own citizenry. However, this is not overly different from other U.S. states. The average distance between citizens and state governments in this measure for 2006 was 17% on the 100-point scale (either in a liberal or conservative direction). Kentucky boasts only a modest 12-point disconnect between its citizens and state government – and in a more conservative direction.