Shor and McCarty make a few interesting comments about Nebraska, which has the only nonpartisan state legislature in the country. What they find runs a bit counter to what Wright and Schaffner found a few years ago in their APSR paper (gated) comparing Nebraska to Kansas:
When we pool the state’s APRE statistic for the first dimension, we find that it is relatively low at 27%. However, four other states (Arkansas, Louisiana, West Virginia and Wyoming) score lower on this measure of fit. Similar results hold for a two-dimensional model.
We can also use a party-free measure of polarization – the average ideological distance between members – to compare Nebraska to other states. Just like many other states, Nebraska is polarized, and becoming increasingly more so. On average, Nebraska’s Senate is more polarized than 17 other chambers. In fact, it is actually polarizing faster than many other states. By the party-free measure, it polarized faster than 75 other chambers over 1996-2008.How is it that a nonpartisan legislature is more polarized than 17 partisan ones? What makes a nonpartisan legislature polarize rapidly? These strike me as really interesting questions that party scholars should be trying to answer. I'm on it.