13 October 2011
Written by Carly Griffin
GREAT DIVIDE RANCH, MT., October 13, 2011 - Project Vote Smart released the 2011 Political Courage Test results today for Virginia state legislative candidates showing only seven percent (7%) of candidates were willing to answer issue-related questions addressed inside the Test. Even following repetitious requests by mail, fax, and e-mail, including contacts from Virginia media and leaders of their own political parties, Virginia candidates' still failed to provide voters with information on how they may handle the job if hired this November. As part of a growing national trend, Political Courage Test response rates have steadily fallen from a high of seventy-two percent (72%) in 1996, to an all-time low of thirty-eight percent (38%) in 2010. Project Vote Smart has found that party leaders and consultants from both major parties are advising candidates not to respond to the Test for two primary reasons: it will limit the candidates' ability to control their campaign messages and it will expose them to opposition research. "When candidates decide to hide behind talking points and manipulative campaign tactics, they are contributing to a deliberate dumbing down of the American electorate," said Richard Kimball, Project Vote Smart President. "When you keep your opponent in the dark, you keep the voter there as well." Since 1992, the Political Courage Test has asked all candidates in every state one central question: "Are you willing to tell citizens your positions on the issues you will most likely face if elected?" Candidates who reply "yes" to that question are presented with several issue categories in which they are asked to indicate support for given principles, or reply using their own language entirely. The Political Courage Test is a collaborative effort between Vote Smart and over 200 political scientists, journalists, and leaders from across the political spectrum, speaking to the Test's unmatched neutrality and objectivity. Issue areas addressed in the Test are researched using polling data, the majority, minority and third party platforms, State of the Union and Response speeches, State of the State and Response speeches, and legislative agendas. Regardless of Virginia candidates' reluctance to provide citizens with their stance on the issues, voters may still utilize Project Vote Smart's free and trusted information on candidates including their voting records, campaign finances, interest group ratings, biographies, and more, in order to cast a more informed vote this November. This information is all found at www.votesmart.org or through the toll-free Voter's Research Hotline, 1-888-VOTESMART. About Project Vote Smart: Founded by 40 national leaders such as Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, Vote Smart researches the voting records, backgrounds, issue positions, campaign contributions, interest group ratings, and public statements of more than 40,000 candidates and elected officials. This information, as well as ballot measures and voter registration information is available through www.votesmart.org, the Voter's Research Hotline (1-888-VOTE SMART), free publications (U.S. Government Owner's Manual), and the new VoteEasy interactive application. Inaugurated in 1992, Project Vote Smart is non-partisan and nonprofit in mission, and is funded entirely by foundation grants and individual contributions.