The Congressional Evaluation Project, 2004

by Kit Mason


List of Tables

  1. Senate Incumbents Overview, 2004
  2. House Incumbents Overview, 2004
  3. Senate Incumbents Background, 2004
  4. Senate Incumbents Ratings by State, 2004
  5. Senate Incumbents' ratings sorted by Christian Coalition '03 approval rating.
  6. Senate Incumbents' ratings on health-care, education and civil liberties issues
  7. House Incumbents' background, 2004
  8. House Incumbents Ratings by State, 2004
  9. House Incumbents' ratings sorted by Christian Coalition '03 approval rate
  10. House Incumbents' Ratings sorted by Christian Coalition '03 Approval rate, with some background information
  11. House Incumbents' ratings on civil liberties and education.
  12. House Incumbents' ratings on health care issues
  13. Incumbent members of the Congressional Black Caucus, by terms and percentage of vote in 2002
  14. Incumbents who received <56% of the vote in the last election
  15. Incumbents who served in the military or the Peace Corps at any time


November's election will point the direction for the next decade. It will select all members of the House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate, as well as the president and vice president. It could be a referendum on the federal government's actions and behavior in the past three years — but that's not likely, as most voters don't really know what their own representatives have been doing.

Hence this project, a personal attempt to find out what all incumbent Congressmen and Senators up for re-election have done during the past few years so that voters can decide if they want to continue to support them.

It's not easy to track the votes of elected officials from individual districts. Television and radio news hit the hot news of the day and move on; they rarely mention the figures in a vote, let alone who voted which way on what. Newspapers and magazines often cover the issues in more depth, but seldom provide information on all the legislators' votes. Each Congressional representative and Senator has a personal webpage online, available by searching at or, but some act as puff pieces only, while others provide links to voting records, position papers on issues and detailed constituent resources. Very few people have the time to track their elected officials' actions by reading the Congressional Record, which covers all bills, amendments and votes, or by reading every page posted at, which also includes access to committee reports.

In addition, it can be difficult for voters to gain a sense of where a particular congressman's or senator's voting record falls within the larger group of his or her peers on specific issues. Is Congressman A's approval for tax cuts in agreement with the majority of his party? Is Senator Z going it alone in speaking out to promote the amendment to the education bill?

As a result, most often Americans vote for their Congressional Representatives and Senators without much understanding of what the incumbents have done during the previous term, unless there has been a scandal, a disaster or other crisis that brought individual officials' work into the light. Often they base their vote on advertising that may stress one or two issues rather than the broader range of the official's work.

This project uses the ratings of nonprofit organizations and lobbying groups to assess incumbents' voting records. The areas covered here include civil liberties, health care, conservation, unions, business, tax cuts, gun control and overall liberal and conservative political viewpoints. These were at the top of the list among the issues that have arisen repeatedly in Congress over the past four years for which organizations' ratings could be found.

Many nonprofit organizations and lobbying groups track Congress continually, in order to see who is supporting the issues they favor. These groups make their ratings known before elections (some have them available all year) to let knowledgeable voters find out their representatives' votes. However, because each group's attention is so tightly focused, it will evaluate based only on its own views and priorities, which creates an almost inevitable bias toward favored officials and away from those who vote against the group's priorities.

To counter this, the project includes ratings from independent organizations, associations and lobbying groups across the political spectrum from liberal to conservative, including groups whose interests vary from broad-spectrum to single-issue. Voters should be gain a truer sense of each incumbent's views by comparing the ratings from groups of different political and social viewpoints. Since all Congressional incumbents up for election are included, it should also be possible to see where each elected official's views fall within the larger groups of party and house.



Evaluating organizations

For convenience, organizations have been placed in positions along the conventional two-dimensional political spectrum from liberal to conservative. This includes organizations who are officially unaligned with any political party; their position was estimated based on their positions on the issues they support.

Toward the liberal end of the current political spectrum are Americans for Democratic Action, the American Civil Liberties Union, and People for the American Way, which characterizes itself as progressive rather than liberal.

The conservative and neoConservative end of the spectrum are represented by the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, which traditionally has been pro-big-business with conservative leanings, the American Conservative Union, the National Tax League, and the Christian Coalition, whose rating covers the broadest range of issues. Also in this camp, but with a much more narrow focus, is the National Right to Life Committee.

Organizations that focus on specific issues but that are officially nonpartisan include the American Public Health Association, the League of Conservation Voters, The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, the National Education Association and the Gun Owners of America. Although these groups' ratings may appear to side with one political party or another, the organizations themselves have not aligned with any one party and have historically found support from members of both party on various issues. Therefore, they have been placed along the spectrum based on how well their current political views correspond to those of other organizations.

Evaluating organizations, with quotations taken directly from their websites:

A note on ratings: a "0" rating is a rating of 0% out of 100%. An x in the box indicates the candidate was not rated by this organization.

Background information

General background information was compiled on all incumbents, as a way to provide more context for considering their ratings. This includes information on the incumbent's geographic location, party, experience in government and popularity within the local district. It also includes the incumbent's religious affiliation and military service, if any. In a time of war, when religious matters are debated in Congress, it is reasonable to think that lawmakers' religious beliefs and prior military service might have some bearing upon their votes.

Background categories:


Some of these tables are unavoidably large. They can be downloaded and opened in a spreadsheet as follows: Choose a table and click on File → Save As or Save Page As and give it an appropriate file name.) All current spreadsheets can open HTML files (extension .htm or .html) directly,with no need for conversion. Microsoft Excel can open files directly from the Web; go to Data → Get External Data → New Web Query, and put in the address of the table.


For further information on this project, or on other work by its author, contact:

Kit Mason
1508 Sanford Road
Silver Spring, MD 20902

The Congressional Evaluation Project, copyright © Kit Mason, 2004. Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.