Political Science 540, American National Institutions, Spring 2000

Prof. Frank Baumgartner


Questions and discussion topics for week 11, March 28:


Readings: VO Key and various articles on state politics.


Special Guest: Prof. Michael Berkman


Note: In the readings, please delete the Mintrom reading, and replace it with this classic:


Walker, Jack L., Jr. 1968. The Diffusion of Innovations Among the American States. American Political Science Review 63, 3 (Sept.): 880-899.


Choose one of these topics for a five page paper if you choose to do one this week. In any case, come to class prepared to discuss the following:


1.      Nearly all of the articles that you read can be classified as comparative state studies, where policy outcomes are compared across states, and in some cases, over time.  What is the value of these studies, if any?  Do you detect progress in these works, or are the earlier studies in some sense “stronger” than the later ones?

2.      Hofferbert concludes his 1966 article with this research agenda: “Remaining to be studied is the specific manner in which environmental forces are translated into policy” (82).  Has the challenge been met?

3.      Are parties important in state politics?  Does it matter if they are competitive or not?

4.      How have state governing institutions changed over time and what are some of the implications of this change?  Is there a need for greater emphasis in state studies on institutions?

5.      Wright, Erikson and McIver are able to explain quite a bit with public opinion.  Missing from their model, however are several concepts deemed important in other studies.  Does it matter, do you think, that public opinion and institutional capacity (or professionalization) are missing from their models?  Any others?  How would you like to see them included?

6.      Does the economy affect state politics and/or do state politics affect the economy?

7.      Do Wright, Erikson and McIver solve the puzzle of whether politics or economics is most important in determining state policy outcomes?