The scholarly exchange over approaches to measuring public preferences in the American states dates back several years. This introduction to the debate attempts to provide broad perspective on how scholars have conceptualized and measured policy mood among state mass publics in the past and the implications of those choices for theoretical and empirical questions in state politics. We frame the discussion around two questions: (1) what is the concept to be measured? and (2) how does the concept fit with the research question? We conclude with some insight on the future of the debate and its implications for state politics research.