- North Carolina is among states that have taken a rightward shift in policy outcomes since 2010.
- During the pandemic, data from Pew show a steady migration from more liberal states to more conservative ones.
- Expanded school choice, looser gun restrictions, tax cuts, and pro-life laws are among the conservative reforms measured.
North Carolina ranks 5th in the nation for conservative policy outcomes in 2021, according to a review due out in November, and the shift can be a factor in drawing new residents.
The ranking is part of a new book titled “Dynamic Democracy: Public Opinion, Elections, and Policymaking in the American States,” written by scholars Devin Caughey, associate professor of political science at MIT, and Christopher Warshaw, associate professor of political science at George Washington University. The book is unique for tracking the actual policy outcomes across the 50 states, not just electoral outcomes or proposed policies.
In a phone interview with Carolina Journal, Warshaw noted that North Carolina is a prime example of a rapid rightward shift in public policy over a short period of time. Republicans took control of the General Assembly in 2010 for the first time since Reconstruction, then captured legislative supermajorities and the governor’s office in 2012.
The result was the passage of key conservative reforms, including expanded school choice, looser gun restrictions, tax cuts, and pro-life laws.
North Carolina followed a regional trend in the South of a conservative shift beginning in 2010, Warshaw noted. “A bunch of the southern states had the same kinds of things happen as North Carolina, where Republicans took control of the state legislatures,” he said.
More recently in 2021, the Republican-led legislature in North Carolina was successful at passing new laws or strengthening existing ones, including expanding the state’s school choice programs and cutting corporate and individual income tax rates.
Wisconsin is an example of another state with a recent rightward tilt, according to Warshaw.
“It used to be like actually kind of slightly liberal-leaning state policy, and now it’s one of the more conservative states in the country,” he said.
In contrast, Virginia traditionally has leaned to the right but took a hard leftward lurch in 2019 and 2020 when the legislature shifted to Democratic control.
“They really had just a giant liberal shift in their policy agenda which obviously stopped when Republicans won control of the state House there in the most recent election,” said Warshaw, referencing the 2021 election when Republicans staged a big comeback, winning control of the legislature and offices of governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general.
According to Caughey and Warshaw, the top 10 states for conservative policy outcomes are:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
The bottom 10 are:
- New York
- New Jersey
- Rhode Island
According to an analysis by Pew, all but one of the top 10 states for conservative policy outcomes had population gains in 2020-2021. In contrast, seven out of the 10 states for least conservative policy outcomes had net population losses over the same time period, including New York’s astounding 1.58% population decline.