Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, Part Three, Introduction

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Who Runs the States

Main Report Pages
Main PagePart 1Partisanship InfographicPart 2Part 3

Partisanship Results Report (Part 1)
Executive SummaryState Partisanship AnalysisPartisan Control of GovernorshipsPartisan Control of State LegislaturesPartisan Control of State SenatesPartisan Control of State HousesState Government TrifectasOverall Partisan Control: Bright, Medium and Soft StatesChanges of Partisan Domination over 22 yearsYear-to-Year Changes in State Partisan ControlTrifectas and Presidential Election PatternsConclusionMethodologyAppendix AAppendix B

State Quality of Life Index (SQLI) Report (Part 2)
Executive SummaryState Quality of Life Index (SQLI)About the IndexOverall RankingsDramatic Changes from 1st Half to 2nd HalfIndividual IndicatorsMethodologyAppendices

Partisanship and (SQLI) Overlay Report (Part 3)
IntroductionComparing Partisanship and the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI) RankingsDescription of the dataTrends and correlationsMethodologyKey Values for Fifty-State RegressionsAppendices
Praise or blame is extended to political parties for the economic, educational, health and other quality of life outcomes that result from the policies those parties enact into law. To better understand which political party enjoys power in each of the states, Ballotpedia has analyzed state government control from 1992-2013 using the concept of a "partisan trifecta." A partisan trifecta is defined as when a state's governorship and legislative chambers are controlled by the same political party.

The two major political parties claim that their policies will lead to better outcomes. What does the data show?

At Ballotpedia, we explored these issues in a three-part study, Who Runs the States.

This page contains the section of Part Three pertaining to the Introduction.


Politicians routinely claim that their policies produce better economic outcomes for their constituents, yet these claims are rarely tested empirically. This study investigates these claims by analyzing selected economic measures and comparing party control of state governments over time. The data show that states with Republican control are correlated with higher levels of well-being and economic outcomes, followed closely by states under divided government.

This report is the third installment in a three-part study. In Part One, we considered partisan control of state governments from over the period 1992-2013 and identified eight states that demonstrated a shift of more than 40 percent in one direction or the other regarding partisanship. We looked for examples where one party controlled the three main levers of state government, because these “trifecta” years presumably provided that party an opportunity to enact its policies with little opposition. Three states demonstrated movements toward becoming more Democratic while five shifted more Republican. Those eight states were:

In Part Two, we aggregated selected economic and social measures into a “State Quality of Life Index (SQLI), that included measures such as unemployment rate and personal income per capita. For this study, we selected 19 state comparison indexes to combine into our aggregate index. Each of the 19 state comparison indexes we chose captures, in part, what it means for one state to have a relatively higher performance than other states. We calculated our quality-of-life index by equally weighting all of our indicators for which we had data for a given year and then giving each state an annual rank from 1 to 50 (1 being the highest relative to standard of living and 50 being the lowest). To view the full dataset, visit this spreadsheet.

This study investigates how partisan control affects a state’s economic performance. We ask: Do state economies perform better (and do people enjoy greater quality of life) when one political party controls all of state government, or when control is divided?

Furthermore, for divided governments, does it matter how they’re divided? Do states perform better when they have Republican legislatures and a Democratic governor, or vice versa; or is there no difference in economic performance as long as the state government is divided?

To answer these questions, we consider the trend of individual state economic performance data with the break-down of partisan control of state government. This report includes our methodology and a selection of tables in the appendix.

See also

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