Candidates Wimp Out on Courage Test

Special to News Wire

WASHINGTON — More than 75 percent of all candidates running for President, Congress, governor, and state legislature said, “No,” when asked if they were willing to tell the voters their positions on the issues they’ll most likely face on their behalf.”

That’s the result of Project Vote Smart’s twelve-year study measuring the declining courage of more than 100,000 U.S. political candidates.

The Test measures candidates’ willingness to share their issue positions on concerns of importance to citizens in spite of the fact that doing so may expose them to partisan attack ads from their opponents.

With participation by more than 200 major news media and 40 national political leaders across the political spectrum, the Test results show little difference between the two major parties’ campaign tactics. However, Test results do reveal a sustained and dramatic decline in the response rates of both Republican and Democratic candidates since the 1996 general elections.

Each candidate for state legislature, governor, Congress, and the Presidency was repeatedly asked every election year to respond to questions that polls showed the voters wanted the candidates to answer, even though they may not have been stamped “SAFE” by their pollsters and campaign consultants.

“We are witnessing the greatest degradation of American democracy in our history,” said Richard Kimball, Project Vote Smart President.

In 1996, 72 percent of congressional candidates proved themselves willing to provide their issue information through the Test.

That response rate has dropped steadily in successive elections to an all-time low of 41 percent in the 2008 elections. The state legislative response rate has dropped from a high of 38 percent to 21 percent in the same time frame.

The willingness of congressional incumbents to answer a broad range of issue questions is even lower-approximately 80% refused in 2008.

The response rates of Democratic and Republican candidates is virtually the same.

Between 2000 and 2008, the Project has documented advice from both Democratic and Republican party leaders and consultants to their candidates to play it safe and not answer issue questions.

A Democratic consultant said, “It’s not our job to educate, it’s our job to win.”

A Republican consultant said, “We only answer issue questions if they come with a campaign donation.”

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