Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Innumeracy and General Assembly Salary

By Christopher Cooper

State legislators don’t make much money for their legislative service, and that’s an understatement. In North Carolina, they receive $13,951 a year, plus a mileage reimbursement and a per diem for time in session. This paltry salary has wide-ranging implications for understanding North Carolina politics, as I discussed in this piece for The Assembly. 


Despite the problems of staggeringly low legislative pay, efforts to increase legislative pay have not progressed very far in the Tar Heel State. I have always suspected that one reason why that may be the case is that the average North Carolinian drastically overestimates how much legislators make. If that’s the case, would correcting these misperceptions help? I tried to answer those questions in some recent research that I published in the journal Public Opinion Quarterly


The paper includes data from ~2000 registered voters four states: California, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and New Hampshire—states that vary in terms of legislative salary (with California at the top of the salary scale, New Hampshire at the bottom and Wisconsin and North Carolina in the middle), region, and partisanship. In this post, though, I’ll just focus on North Carolina.