To the Editors:
As co-editors of State Politics and Policy Quarterly (SPPQ), we read with interest Ben Merriman’s “State Governments Are Among the Biggest Threats to Higher Ed” (The Chronicle Review, August 7). We agree wholeheartedly that states are (1) immensely important in American political life, and (2) the more people studying them, the better. That said, the author’s conclusion that “there is a dearth of social-science research on state politics and government” is simply empirically false, something that can be revealed by even a cursory Google search or knowledge of the field.
SPPQ published its first issue in 2001, so it is a relatively new journal. Its purpose is to publish high quality original research on the politics of the states — both in the U.S. and in other countries. The circulation of the journal is about 9,000 and the acceptance rate hovers around 20%, depending on the year. In 2018, we exceeded 25,000 downloads of our articles. Recently, we received our highest impact factor ever of 1,675, with a 5-year impact factor of 1.645, This ranks us 70th in political science out of 176 ranked journals. This also puts us ahead of more well established journals such as Legislative Studies Quarterly, Political Research Quarterly, Social Science Quarterly, and American Politics Research. We are not throwing shade at those journals — they all publish excellent work, and even publish some okay work we have written ourselves. But no one would claim that there is a dearth of research on topics like American politics or legislative politics.
SPPQ is also not the only place scholars of state politics publish their work. As mentioned in the original article, there is also State and Local Government Review and Publius. But wait, there’s more! And you may want to sit down for this one. Scholars of state politics publish their work in journals of broad, general interest as well. How do we know this? We looked it up.
In 2018 alone, the three journals widely perceived to be at the top of the journal hierarchy (American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, and Journal of Politics) published six articles directly dealing with state politics and policy. And this does not count all those articles published which touched on local governments or that had implications for the states. Each of these journals receives well over 1,000 submissions each year. Moreover, studies of state politics appear in all kinds of other subfield journals as well: Political Behavior, Legislative Studies Quarterly, etc.
Furthermore, this broad interest in state politics is hardly new. To give but one example, Jack Walker’s 1969 classic “The Diffusion of Innovations among the American States” is perennially one of the top ten most cited articles in the entirety American Political Science Review’s 113-year history. Thousands of articles and books have built on and cited this influential work, including nearly 100 already in 2019 alone. That’s a lot of scholars who would be surprised to read this article’s laughable claim that no one has yet studied the important question of how policy ideas spread across states!
And then there is the annual State Politics and Policy Conference, like SPPQ supported by the approximately 355 members of the State Politics and Policy Section of the American Political Science Association. Now in its 19th year, the 2019 conference had 160 registrants, 138 proposals to present work, 71 (!) papers presented and an additional 16 graduate student posters. And there are scores more papers and posters presented at national and regional meetings across the country every year.
The Chronicle has a wide readership across academia, and thus what is published here matters, particularly when it makes the false assertion that the academic job market disincentivizes new scholars from entering what is actually a robust area of study. People outside the field of political science could read the article and conclude that we are engaging in disciplinary malpractice by ignoring the importance of the states. Rather, the study of state politics has a long history and it is getting richer every day.
As political scientists, we are used to other fields parachuting in and claiming to “discover” things we have known for decades. Usually, it’s the economists. But we should expect better from scholars who claim to be (at least tangentially) in our field as well as from the Chronicle.
Chris W. Bonneau
Professor of Political Science
The University of Pittsburgh
Associate Professor of Political Science
The University of Pittsburgh