American Government and Politics

Measuring and Analyzing the Policy Agendas of American State Legislatures: 1991-2018



The policy content of the 50 state legislatures is not consistently measured by scholars or any central agency. After reviewing extant efforts in the literature, this paper expands on an approach that uses keyword searches of LexisNexis to estimate how many bills were introduced in 22 policy areas since 1991. The measure is validated using data from the states that do code their legislation by topic, showing high levels of agreement. The keyword estimates are used to investigate agenda setting in the context of federalism. It shows an association between the number of Congressional bills introduced in a policy area and the number of state legislative bills from the prior session, which is taken as evidence of ``bottom-up'' federalism. There is also an asymmetric relationship between the parties, as chambers controlled by Republicans have a closer contemporaneous association with their Congressional copartisans than Democrats.


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Data described in this paper is available for download.


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