Do conservative states send conservatives to Congress?
To answer the question, we have to know two pieces of information. First, we have to identify which states are conservative. As it happens, Gallup just released a report on the self-described political ideology of the states. Second, we have to identify which lawmakers are conservative. Last week, Heritage Action for America announced 29 Members of Congress — six Senators and 23 Representatives — achieved Sentinel status in the 112th Congress by scoring a 90% or higher on the organization’s comprehensive legislative scorecard.
As it turns out, only four of Heritage Action’s 29 Sentinels come from the ten most conservative states, as defined by Gallup. Of those, three came from Utah: Senators Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch, and Representative Jason Chaffetz. The other, John Flemming, hailed from Louisiana.
It’s not just the lack of congressional Sentinels from conservative states that is surprising, though. As the chart below reveals, Gallup’s ten most conservative states are not, with the exception of Utah, sending a posse of rabble-rousing conservatives to Washington.
As a point of reference, Republicans averaged 66 percent in the House and 73 percent in the Senate on Heritage Action’s scorecard.
For some additional contrast, see the chart below on the states with the most congressional Sentinel – Arizona and South Carolina.
Gallup notes that while the “distribution of ideology in 2012 generally reflects the familiar ‘blue state,’ ‘red state’ patterns that define the political geography of today’s modern America,” there are differences:
The top 10 conservative states are all red states that vote reliably Republican in national elections, all located in the nation’s Southern, Midwestern, and Mountain West regions. These include (in addition to Alabama, North Dakota, and Wyoming) Mississippi, Utah, Oklahoma, Idaho, Louisiana, Nebraska, and Arkansas. There is not, however, a perfect correlation between ideology and party. Three of the 10 most Republican states – Kansas, Montana, and Alaska — do not rank among the most conservative states. And Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas rank in the top 10 conservative states but not the 10 most Republican.
We see similar variation amongst congressional delegations. Some of the most conservative states are home to run of the mill average-scoring Republicans. And in the case of states such as North Dakota, Louisiana, Nebraska and Arkansas, they are home to self-proclaimed moderate Democrats (all of whom voted for Obamacare).
Gallup’s bottom line is that “conservatives still outnumber both moderates and liberals.” Now, we just need lawmakers in Congress to represent that reality.