State Policy Network
2020 election results and the opportunities for states
Key takeaways from the state elections and opportunities for state think tanks in this shifting policy landscape.

It’s the same routine every four to eight years. A new president comes in, follows through on some promises, blames the opposing party for gridlock, and passes the torch to his successor. And with this routine, another constant: our problems, too, remain unsolved.

In 2020, that list of problems is growing. The country is facing a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, a shattered economy, skyrocketing unemployment, and a divided public that can only agree on hating the other side. A new president is unlikely to solve the problems that matter to Americans most.

Why then, do we continue to look to Washington, DC, for answers? The solution to these problems lies within us, in our states and communities. Americans agree. According to the Pew Research Center, the majority of Americans believe the prescription to our country’s problems begins with neighborliness. It’s in our schools, libraries, churches, and civic organizations that we can rebuild interpersonal relationships and work together to solve problems. Success in one community will spread to the next, and eventually work its way up to the national level. As solution centers that are tapped into their local communities, state think tanks can play a big role in helping their states recover and grow.

Although most attention focused on the presidential election, hundreds of state contests took place last week. Below are key takeaways from the state elections and opportunities for state think tanks in this shifting policy landscape.

State Legislatures

Trifectas and governors

Opportunities for states and state think tanks

With Joe Biden moving closer to the presidency, along with Democrats retaining control of the House and possibly taking over the Senate, states’ policy decisions will be more important than ever. States have an opportunity to show a different path—one that emphasizes the benefits of working with communities to solve problems at the state and local levels.

Jobs and the Economy

As Americans have felt their personal economic situations worsening, jobs and the economy because top issues for voters. Nearly half of voters think a free-market economy is the best path to recovery and growth, so state think tanks have an extraordinary opportunity to champion these types of solutions in the year ahead.


With nationalized healthcare being a clear priority for a potential Biden administration, the Network’s healthcare solutions are all the more important. Americans are increasingly open to free-market solutions for healthcare: A majority of Americans think we should replace or fix the Affordable Care Act whereas only one in five think universal government healthcare is the way to go. States can make healthcare more accessible and affordable by deregulating healthcare in statute and telling the story of how this deregulation helps people get better care faster, more cheaply, and with a better patient experience.


States have historically had more oversight over education, and there will continue to be opportunities in this area, especially as our communities adapt to pandemic-related disruptions in education. States can support families and students by encouraging innovative solutions like learning pods and making sure students have internet access for distance learning. For state think tanks and their communities, local engagement and coalition building will be important keys to creating more of the options that parents are showing interest in.

What we learned from the voters

SPN partnered with Heart+Mind Strategies to conduct a poll on Election Day and learn what concerns and values ultimately factored into Americans’ voting decisions. While most voters filled out their ballots by party line, polling revealed a few insights that Network think thinks should bear in mind while setting 2021 strategies:

See more insights from our election polling.

More on the Election:

Categories: News
Organization: State Policy Network