Test Study: Why Are Politicians Afraid To Tell You Where They Stand?

Every election year, political candidates are asked one simple question: “Are you willing to tell the citizens your positions on the issues?”

Most answer “No.”

The Political Courage Test, a survey administered by Project Vote Smart, asks candidates—from presidential hopefuls to your neighborhood representative—to tell the voters where they stand on a range of serious policy options facing the nation.

But candidates fear that the information will become one-stop shopping for opposition research–because it’s happened in the past.

As Nintzel explained a few months ago in a Tucson Weekly article on Project Vote Smart:

…the percentage of politicians willing to complete the survey has been falling in almost every election cycle. In 1996, 72 percent of congressional candidates completed the survey; in 2006, only 48 percent did. Almost three out of four incumbents ignored the request in 2006.

Why the reluctance to take the Political Courage Test? Because the Project Vote Smart survey has become one-stop shopping for campaigns to do opposition research. As a result, political strategists discourage candidates from completing the survey, warning that it could come back to haunt them.

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who refused to fill out the survey for her 2006 campaign, says she’s concerned that her responses would be used against her.

“I applaud what they do, because they do provide a pretty good scorecard,” Giffords says. “But most often, those scorecards get used against you. … I want to make sure I’m not giving my opponent ammunition to be used against me.”

Giffords has only filled out Continue reading