State by State: Key Metrics for 2014

State by State: Key Metrics for 2014

Gallup's unique daily interviewing, involving more than 350,000 completed interviews a year, along with Gallup's 2013 50-state poll consisting of approximately 600 interviews in each state, provides the unique ability to measure the views of the residents of each state in the union on a wide variety of important measures.

Gallup has now isolated 14 key indicators from these data sources at the state level, and has compiled them into a series of State Scorecards, one for each of the 50 states. These scorecards are each available via the links in the right-hand column. These key metrics involve the views of each state's residents regarding their local and national economy, state and national political viewpoints and assessments, evaluations of the state as a place to live, and views on cultural characteristics of the state.

A number of states will hold congressional or gubernatorial elections in November that together will decide the ultimate party control of the U.S. House and Senate, or will have important implications for the governance of those states going forward. These states' standing on the 14 key political, economic, and cultural metrics provides important insights into the environment in which these midterm elections will be held. The scorecards from these key states will be highlighted in a series of forthcoming reports on throughout the fall of 2014.

The following section lists each of the key indicators included on the scorecard with an explanation of what it measures.

Political Measures

Four measures help gauge the political structure of each state, based on its residents' general political and ideological orientation, and on their evaluation of the president and their own state government.

1. Partisanship

This section of the scorecard details the self-reported political identification and leanings of the residents of each state. The data show the percentage of state residents who identify as Democrats or are independents who say they lean Democratic, and, separately, the percentage who identify as or lean Republican. The data are from the first six months of 2014, and are compared with the national data over that same period. These data are important because in many instances they provide one of the few measures of a state's political leanings when that state does not have official or current party registration numbers. In all instances they provide a comprehensive estimate of the political orientation of a state not available even from party registration data, given that many residents do not register to vote.

2. Ideology

Americans are generally more likely to view themselves as conservative or moderate rather than liberal, but there is wide variation on this ideological index across the nation's states. This section of the scorecard reports on how Americans in each state identify ideologically, compared with the national average.

3. Presidential Job Approval

Gallup has been asking Americans to rate the job the president is doing since President Franklin Roosevelt's administration, and since 2008 as part of the Gallup Daily tracking program. The large sample sizes aggregated from the Daily tracking provide the ability to break out the presidential job approval measure at the state level. Presidential job approval varies widely across states, ranging from 54% for the first six months of 2014 (in Massachusetts) to 19% (in Wyoming). This section of the scorecard provides each state's average approval compared with the national average for the same period. As is the case with partisan identification, presidential job approval is a key measure of a state's political climate, and as such provides an important predictor of midterm election outcomes.

4. Trust in Your State's Government

Gallup's extensive 2013 state-by-state polling included a measure in which each state's residents were asked how much trust and confidence they had in their state's government to handle their state's problems. The results across states showed a wide range of 77% displaying a great deal or fair amount of trust and confidence at the high end (North Dakota) to 28% at the low end (Illinois). This section of the scorecard displays each state's confidence, compared with the 50-state average trust in state government.


5. Confidence in the U.S. Economy

Americans' faith in the national economy provides an important measure of how the average consumer views the current state of national economic conditions and the economy's direction. Gallup's Economic Confidence Index summarizes those attitudes. The Economic Confidence Index in this section of the scorecard is based on the average of each state's residents as measured in the first six months of 2014, compared with the national average. This index summarizes how each state's residents view the national economy, not their local state's economy, but variations across states provide important insights into how residents view the economic context in which their state is operating.

6. Confidence in Your State's Economy

Unlike Gallup's broad national Economic Confidence Index, this measure asks residents to rate their specific state's economy, using a variant of the same questions that make up the broader, national index. This measure, based on 2013 interviewing conducted as part of Gallup's 50-state poll, shows an extremely wide variation across states, ranging from +80 (North Dakota) to -27 (Illinois). The 50-state average is +23. This measure, and the measure of perceptions of the national economy, provide significant insights into the economic environment in which a statewide election is taking place.

7. Good Time to Get a Job in City or Area

One of the most important measures of the economic health and vitality of a city or region is the availability of jobs for those who want them. This measure asks residents of each state to rate whether it is a good time to find a job in their local city or area. The scorecard provides the summary of residents' responses to this question in each state, and compares that with the average of the 50 states. The measure ranges widely from a high of 85% who say "yes" (North Dakota) to a low of 21% (Rhode Island).

8. State Taxes Not Too High

Taxes are a significant concern to many Americans, and the tax burden, along with the services provided by those taxes, varies widely across states. This measure asks residents in each state if the amount of state taxes they have to pay is too high or not too high. The results vary widely, from a high of 75% who say their taxes are not too high (Wyoming) to a low of 21% (New York).

9. Payroll to Population Rate

There are many ways to calculate the status of employment in a state, including absolute number of jobs in the state, jobs created and jobs lost, the state's unemployment rate, and the workforce participation rate. Gallup's Payroll to Population measure gives the percentage of all adults in the state who have full-time jobs. It summarizes a number of characteristics of the state's overall employment picture in one measure, including the demographics of the state's workforce (states whose population skews older will have fewer full-time workers) and the availability of full-time jobs. This section of the scorecard reports this measure for the first six months of 2014, compared with the overall national average (43%) for that time period.

10. Best State to Live In

This measure provides a summary of residents' subjective assessments of the state as a place to live, reflected in the percentage of each state's population who rate their state as the best possible state to live in, or one of the best possible states to live in. The other options include "as good a state as any to live in in the United States," and "the worst possible state to live in." Responses varied widely, from a high of 77% of Montana and Alaska residents who rated their state as the best or one of the best states to live in, to a low of 18% of Rhode Island residents who rated their state this highly.

11. Would Like to Remain in State

The U.S. Census Bureau has documented over the decades general patterns of migration between states, from the huge movement to California in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, to the more recent movement of residents from states in the Northeast and Midwest to states in the South and Southwest. This measure provides a subjective measure of desire to migrate, asking residents "Regardless of whether you WILL move, if you had the opportunity, would you LIKE to move to another state, or would you rather remain in your current state?" The results range from 76% who would choose to remain in their state (Oregon) to 48% (Connecticut).

12. Satisfied With City or Area

This measure summarizes responses from each state's residents when asked if they are satisfied with the city or area where they live. Americans are generally quite positive on this measure, presumably because they have a choice in where they decide to live, and those who are not satisfied would likely move to a place where they would be satisfied. The range extends from 92% of residents of Minnesota who say they are satisfied, to 75% in Connecticut.


13. Religiosity

Gallup's index of religiosity is derived from Americans' responses to two questions asking about the personal importance of religion and self-reported religious service attendance. The index classifies Americans into three groups: highly religious, moderately religious, or unreligious. The overall percentage of Americans who are highly religious in the first six months of 2014 was 41%, but this measure varies across states, from 60% who are highly religious in Mississippi, to 19% in Vermont.

14. City or Area Is Good Place for Racial and Ethnic Minorities

The Gallup 2013 50-state survey asked Americans if their local city or area is a good place to live for racial and ethnic minorities. Americans in general are quite positive in their responses to this measure, with a 50-state average of 83% who answer the question affirmatively. But there are variations across states, ranging from a high of 95% in Hawaii to a low of 74% in West Virginia.

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