Legislative Rankings

The effectiveness, attendance, and voting participation rankings are published as a supplement to Article II: A Citizen's Guide to the N.C. Legislature.  The Center’s effectiveness rankings are based on surveys completed by the legislators themselves, by registered lobbyists who are based in North Carolina and who regularly work in the General Assembly, and by capital news reporters. These three groups were asked to rate each legislator’s effectiveness on the basis of participation in committee work, skill at guiding bills through committees and in floor debates, and general knowledge or expertise in special fields. The respondents also were asked to consider the respect that legislators command from their peers, his or her ethics, the political power they hold (by virtue of office, longevity, or personal skills), their ability to sway the opinions of fellow legislators, and their aptitude for the overall legislative process.

Beginning in 2001, the Center has tabulated attendance and roll call voting participation rankings, using official records from the General Assembly. In odd-numbered years, the Center publishes two additional evaluations of legislative performance. Article II, the Center’s guide to the legislature, includes data on how many bills each legislator got passed out of the total he or she introduced. The guide also includes all members’ votes on what legislators said were the 12 most important bills of the session. The Center now publishes five different legislative performance indicators – effectiveness, attendance, voting participation, success in getting bills passed, and votes on the most significant bills in the last session.

Several states – including Arkansas, California, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, and Washington – have ranked the effectiveness of their legislators using different methods. California has ranked legislators in terms of effectiveness, integrity, energy, and even intelligence. “It is hard to deny that the ratings, when done responsibly, serve a legitimate public purpose,” said a report about state legislative rankings in Governing magazine, published by Congressional Quarterly, Inc. “The ratings issued by the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research are perhaps the most straightforward and most widely respected.”

Another independent review of state rankings reached the same conclusion. “Most attempts at reputational rankings of state legislators don't deserve much credibility because of three problems: (1) no precise definition of who is being polled, (2) a low response rate among those polled because legislators and lobbyists don't want to risk getting caught making statements suggesting people they work with are ineffective, or (3) definitions of effectiveness that equate effectiveness with helping to enact an interest group’s agenda,” said State Policy Reports. “Over the years, Reports has seen many of these ... that fail one or another of these tests. The exception is the rankings that have been done since 1978 by the North Carolina Center.”