Statehouses shifted toward conservative policies in 2021, study shows

State legislatures skewed more conservative in 2021, as statehouses voted for conservative policies most of the time in 30 states last year, up from 26 in 2019.

The Center for Legislative Accountability (CLA) has tracked state legislature activity since 2015 and found that five states shifted to a conservative stance from 2019 to 2021: New Hampshire, Montana, Pennsylvania, Mississippi and South Carolina. Alaska, which had a conservative ranking in 2019, fell out of that ranking in 2021, which means a net gain of four conservative legislatures in 2021.

The CLA rankings are based on votes from state legislators across 186 policy categories. The comparison between 2019 and 2021 allows for an assessment of all 50 states, as some state legislatures only meet every other year and did not meet in 2020.

The report also noted a higher degree of polarization among state legislators. It found that Republican lawmakers at the state level voted conservative 81% of the time, and Democrats voted conservative 16% of the time, and this 65-point swing is the largest divide recorded by CLA.

The nation’s most conservative state, according to the report, is Alabama, which is followed by Tennessee, Indiana, South Dakota, and Arkansas. Massachusetts is ranked the most liberal, followed by Hawaii, Rhode Island, California and Maryland.

Florida is ranked the sixth most conservative state, which continues a strong streak from Republicans in the once purple state that dates back to 2016. The state was ranked 20th in 2015, but has since jumped to the top 10 each year since.

Republicans at the national level gained four congressional seats in Florida in the November midterms. Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., cruised to re-election in November over Democratic candidate Charlie Crist by 19 points.

Texas, which has legislative sessions every other year, is ranked in the bottom half of states at 26. This continues a liberal bend from the state, as it was ranked 24th for 2019 and 5th in 2017.

CLA is a project of the Conservative Political Action Committee and the American Conservative Union.

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