About the Political Courage Test

Vote Smart measures candidates’ willingness to answer voters’ questions through the Political Courage Test. The test keeps voters informed by providing a record of candidates’ stances on a range of issues.

Vote Smart’s staff and board of national leaders reach out to candidates before each election to urge them to take the Political Courage Test. Presidential, Congressional, gubernatorial, and state legislative candidates are tested. Those candidates who provide their answers will pass no matter what those answers are. Vote Smart doesn’t evaluate candidates' courage based on partisan issues. However, those candidates who refuse to answer before the election will fail. Voters before and after each election can see politicians’ answers on the Vote Smart website.

When candidates refuse to take the Political Courage Test, Vote Smart uses their public record, including public statements, voting record, and special interest group ratings and endorsements to provide information on their positions. Candidates can change answers at any time they like. When a candidate’s public record lacks clarity on that issue, Vote Smart will not infer an answer.

The Political Courage Test is a collaborative effort between Vote Smart and over 200 political scientists, journalists, and leaders from across the political spectrum. The issues included on the Test are the top concerns of the American people and are likely to come up in the next legislative session. They are determined by a rigorous examination of national and local polls, the majority, minority and third party platforms, State of the Union and Response speeches, State of the State and Response speeches, and legislative agendas. Every effort is made to ensure that the test is as unbiased as possible.

Use Policy

Vote Smart does not permit the use of its name or programs in any partisan activity, including advertising.

For more information, contact Vote Smart at 1-888-VOTE-SMART (1-888-868-3762) or email politicalcourage@votesmart.org.