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76% of Congressional Candidates Flunk Courage Test

Afraid of opposition research, 76% of all 2020 congressional candidates have failed Vote Smart’s National Political Courage Test.  The test, conducted every election since 1992, evaluates each candidate’s willingness to provide positions on the key issues they most likely will face if elected. The 2020 Political Courage Test results released today show a dramatic 24-year decline in the response rates from 72% in 1996 to only 24% this election.  “This demonstration of political cowardice by candidates of both major parties is unparalleled in history,” said Vote Smart President Richard Kimball.

Every candidate, including third party, was tested over a 10-month period.  Candidates were contacted up to 14 different times asking them to respond to voters on the issues voters consider most important. Contacts were made by phone, email and by written letters.

The excuse most commonly given for refusing to answer was fear of opposition research and that their opponents might use their answers in attack ads against them.

As a result of this refusal, Vote Smart used the efforts of thousands of student interns and volunteers culling through millions of public records on the candidates to divine what their positions would be had they shown the courage to answer the questions on their own.  All of the results are available at

In addition, the results of this research can be seen on a powerful tool called VoteEasy at This tool enables citizens to compare candidates with their own positions on key issues and see the public records that expose their positions.

Gubernatorial and state legislative candidates were also tested, and their Political Courage Test results are available at, along with all candidates’ voting records, special interest groups’ ratings and endorsements, public statements, backgrounds, campaign contributions and contact information. 

Results of the test, ranking the states by the best performers to the worst, can be seen below.

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