Writing on the blog Polysigh about Thomas Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas?, political scientist Philip Klinkner claims that Kansas has not become more conservative in recent years:
Frank argues that the Sunflower State has, through conservative manipulation, shifted heavily to the right in recent decades. Again with my handy 1972 edition of the Almanac of American Politics, I looked at the average ADA score for Kansas's U.S. Senators and Representatives. In 1972, the average score was 14. In 2004, however, it was 23. Of course, comparing ADA scores across years is tricky, but this is hardly evidence of a swing to the right. If anything, Kansas has gotten more, not less liberal in the last 30 years. And what about on economic issues, where Frank argues the change has been the most pronounced? In 1972, the average was 28 and in 2004 is was 26. In other words, no real change.
I'm not a big fan of comparing ADA scores across time either, so I took a quick look at some other data. It's true that the people of Kansas don't vote for Democrats, but the percentages appear to have not changed much from 1972-2004, with fluctuations that roughly parallel national voting trends:
But if you look at the voting record of Kansas Republicans in Congress over the same period (1972-2004), you'll see that they've become substantially more conservative, with a particular leap past the GOP mean in the last decade or so (note: higher scores indicate more conservatism):
How that leap took place is what Frank wants to explain. Though I frequently disagree with his analysis in the book, the shift to the right among the Republicans who represent Kansas in Congress does seem to be real.