What makes a leader? A Role Analysis of Latent Diffusion Networks

09 September 2022, Version 1
This content is an early or alternative research output and has not been peer-reviewed at the time of posting.


Is being a policy leader an intrinsic characteristic of a state, or does policy leadership dependent on context and policy at hand? Since Walker’s initial study of policy adoptions in the states, scholars have used a variety of methods to understand what makes a state a policy leader or follower. We use role analysis to identify which states play similar roles in latent diffusion networks and categorize states as leaders and laggards. Using a variety of external and internal state characteristics, we find policy leadership is stable over time, with states being much more likely to remain leaders once they become one. Additionally, leadership appears to be widespread across topic areas rather than states specializing in one area at the cost of others. We find little evidence policy demands predict leadership. These findings suggest policy leadership is a stable trait and once patterns of diffusion emerge, they likely persist.


role analysis
structural equivalence methods
network analysis
state politics
state policy
policy diffusion


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