Wednesday, December 1, 2010

New Senate Leadership in North Carolina

Now that the election is over (or, at least mostly over) it's a good time to examine how the political landscape is likely to shift.  A good place to begin is in the North Carolina Senate where we will soon have a Republican controlled legislature with Republican-controlled leadership.  So--how different will this leadership be? 

Thanks to the hard work of Phillip Ardoin at Appalachian State University, we can get a good sense of how liberal or conservative various members of the state legislature are.  Below, I've plotted the 2007 NC Senate by their "Nominate scores."  Phillip has borrowed this concept from work done at the Congressional level and, using a bunch of fancy statistics, estimates the ideology of every NC Senator based on their voting record on non-unanimous votes during that session.  He's got a terrific explanation here, but all you really need to know to understand this graph is that a lower Nominate score means a more liberal senator, a score of 0 indicates a moderate voting pattern and a higher scores means that senator has generally voted in a more conservative direction.  The higher peaks in this graph mean that there are more legislators in that particular range and you can see that in 2007*, we had far more liberal than conservative legislators.  If you're curious, the mean score was -.27.

That is interesting (well, at least to me) by itself, but perhaps even more interesting is the relative position of the two names on the chart.  As most readers know, Marc Basnight is the outgoing President Pro-Tempore of the Senate and Phil Berger is the incoming leader.  According to their Nominate scores, Basnight was the 12th most liberal Senator in 2007 with a score of -.785.  Berger, on the other hand was the 4th most conservative with a score of .688. 

The bottom line here is that we will not not seeing a more moderate leadership in the next legislative session and if anything, the leadership will be slightly more ideologically extreme than it was before.

*Obviously some things might have changed since 2007, but compiling these votes and computing the Nominate scores is a tremendous amount of work, so Ardoin understandably doesn't have newer scores up yet.   When he does, however, we'll be sure to link to them here.

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