American Government and Politics

Measuring Executive Ideology and its Influence



Executives are important elites, and ideology plays an important role in elite behavior, but measurement challenges and a focus on the presidency have kept scholars from fully exploring the role of executive ideology. This article advocates turning to the gubernatorial context, where Bonica’s (2014) campaign finance-based ideology scores (CFscores) provide a common-scale measure of executive preferences. I demonstrate that these scores converge with other indicators of executive preferences, and reliably predict executive behavior. Then, I estimate four models of state policy liberalism as a function of executive, legislative, and citizen ideology. Gubernatorial preferences emerge as the most predictive of the three. Executive ideology is more explanatory than legislative preferences when Democrats are in office and dwarfs the predictive power of public opinion in all cases. A one standard deviation shift in executive ideology corresponds with 2.3 to 8.3 times more policy change than a similar shift in public opinion.


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