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Presidential Candidates Fail To Demonstrate Political Courage

16 November 2007
Written by

Manchester, NH / Washington, DC - Project Vote Smart has released the results of its Presidential Political Courage Test, which showed 55% of presidential candidates were willing to expose their positions on issues of obvious concern to citizens. This represented an 8% decline in the candidates' willingness to provide such crucial information to citizens since 2004. This also demonstrated the candidates' increasing interest in controlling the public's access to information regarding their intentions on issues.

Most startling, only three candidates receiving major media attention were willing to provide specific issue information to voters:

* Chris Dodd
* John Edwards
* Mike Gravel

Each candidate was asked repeatedly by key leaders of both major parties and major media, "Are you willing to tell citizens your positions on the issues you will most likely face on their behalf?" Each candidate was then provided a series of questions known to be of concern to citizens, but also likely considered dangerous by their campaign consultants. Candidates were invited to address the issue areas in language they were comfortable using.

More than 100 political scientists, prominent political leaders and journalists created and implemented the Political Courage Test. During the six-week testing period, candidates were confronted numerous times by news organizations, party leaders and Vote Smart staff, in efforts to compel them to provide voters with this essential information.

"This Test demonstrated the obvious relationship between exploding campaign financing, candidates' ability to control their messages and the public's loss of access to information," said Richard Kimball, Vote Smart President. "After all, this is information the nation's founders considered essential for a healthy democracy."

The results of Vote Smart's ten-year study clearly showed that as campaign consultants and both major parties have increasingly advised their candidates to dodge specifics on issue questions, and candidates are following this advice. The number of federal candidates willing to answer issue questions plummeted from 72 percent in 1996 to 48 percent in 2006.

Test procedures and results can be reviewed by anyone on Vote Smart's website or by calling the Voter's Research Hotline at (888) 868-3762.

Additional information available includes; voting records, biographical information, issue positions, special interest group ratings, campaign finances and a keyword searchable database of public statements, and contact information on 40,000 candidates and elected officials nationwide.

Results of the Presidential Political Courage Test are available at

Related tags: 2008-election, blog, presidential-elections, Richard-Kimball

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