Theories of collective accountability in American elections center on the ability of voters to hold legislators accountable for the job performance of the president and their party in Congress. While this work finds that presidential and congressional approval finds that legislators pay an electoral penalty for low institutional approval ratings under their party’s control, little is none whether this form of collective accountability translates to the state legislative context. We argue that collective accountability in state legislative elections follows a two-tiered approach, with state legislators being held accountable for national and state policymaking institutions. Using new state-level measures of institutional approval for national and state institutions, along with voter-level data from the 2007-2020 Cooperative Election Study, we find that presidential approval is the principal growing motivator of state legislative partisan choice with other policymaking institutions playing a minimal role, at best. These findings suggest nationalization also shapes state-centric legislative elections.
The Role of State & National Institutional Evaluations in Fostering Collective Accountability Across the U.S. States