Evidence-Based Policymaking at the State Level

Research Report

Evidence-Based Policymaking at the State Level

A Guide for Governors


The goal of this brief is to equip governors—especially a new governor and their policy or transition team, charged with developing an agenda for the first term of office—to build research, evaluation, and evidence-based policymaking into that agenda. It offers recommendations for communicating about the value of evidence, effective strategies for implementation and retaining the focus on evidence despite constant demands for the governor’s attention. The brief also integrates important sources in the field to provide a roadmap for building a state-level evidence-based policy agenda. Although evidence-based policymaking may seem like a daunting approach, we offer easy applications, borrowing from the private sector, as well as practical solutions and resources. States are crucial policymakers that understand their constituents’ needs, have the capacity to implement significant policy change, and transfer over $500 billion funds to local governments per year. The opportunity to use the principles of evidence-based policymaking to more effectively direct and evaluate these efforts is significant. We hope this guide will be the first step in making states forerunners of evidence-based policymaking practice.


This brief was updated on November 21, 2018. A description of a Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative report on page 11 was edited to correct a mischaracterization of the report’s findings, and note 20 was edited to lead to the correct citation.

Research Area: 


Cross-Center Initiative

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