Conclusions: Where We Have Been,
Where Should We Go
JEFFREY E. COHEN
THE CHAPTERS IN Public Opinion in State Politics extend our understanding of the role of public opinion in democratic polities. Collectively, the chapters in this volume address three interrelated questions, all of which bear on the larger issues of the role of public opinion in democratic processes: (1) how do we measure state-level public opinion, (2) what are the influences on state level public opinion, and (3) what is the impact of state level public opinion on politics and policy making in the states? Furthermore, the Erikson, Wright, McIver chapter (Chapter 12) deals with dynamic properties of state opinion, a new and important direction for state public opinion research. While advancing our knowledge along all these fronts, the chapters herein also refine old questions, raise new questions, and suggest new directions for future research. They also reveal frustrations and barriers in studying state-level public opinion and its role in democratic politics and policy making.
The history of collecting state-level public opinion data has been one of compromise. Lacking large-scale surveys across the states, scholars have relied on essentially three data collection techniques—using demographics as surrogates, simulation, and pooling across existing surveys. Each poses its own limitations and forces compromises, which in the end, affect