On TN as nation’s most conservative state… or not

While the American Conservative Union has ranked Tennessee’s legislature the most conservative in the nation, others have given it a lower ranking in comparison with other states. The difference, reports Michael Collins, is all about who is doing the ranking and how they’re keeping score.

Tennessee failed to grab the top stop in a different rating system by Boris Shor, a visiting government professor at Georgetown University in Washington. On his most recent scorecard, Shor listed the Tennessee legislature as the nation’s fourth most conservative.

So how did the two scoring systems come up with different scores?

The American Conservative Union made its ranking by looking at how state lawmakers voted last year on 13 bills in the state Senate and 12 in the state House…. The Tennessee Senate scored an 83 out of 100 on the conservative meter, while the House score was 78. Combined, the state’s average score was 81 — the highest in the nation.

Shor’s rankings looked at voting patterns from a year earlier. His scorecard also was much more broad-based. It took into account every vote made by lawmakers in the state House and the state Senate during 2014.

While there’s no question the Tennessee legislature is conservative, he concluded, it ranked only fourth nationwide, right behind Oklahoma, Arkansas and Idaho.

Others have tried to measure the conservative bona fides of the entire state — not just the legislature. They, too, have come up with different results.

Gallup named Tennessee the nation’s 12th most conservative state in 2015. But Tennessee barely cracked the top 20 when The Hill, a Washington-based newspaper that specializes in government coverage, published its own rankings a few months earlier. In that survey, Tennessee came in at No. 19.