As Project Vote Smart's Press Secretary, I want to address some comments about the Political Courage Test made by MU political science professor John Petrocik in the article "Candidates give lackluster response to political opinions survey." I don't believe he was presented all the facts on the test before making his comments. Professor Petrocik is quoted saying, "I suspect that it is viewed as an outlet for a particular subgroup of liberal and civic-minded activists. The topics in the questionnaire and the topics that are not in the questionnaire indicate that the organization has the sensibilities of those who are political liberals."
The Political Courage Test is developed by political scientists who are experts in polling and surveys. Before the test is sent to candidates at any level it goes through several layers of review to ensure that the questions and issues presented are both top on the public's mind and also likely to come up in the next session of Congress or the state legislature. They are reviewed by political journalists in each state. But the most significant vetting occurs by our board members, who are required to review and approve it. These include national leaders such as Republicans Newt Gingrich, Bill Frist and Senator Gordon Smith, and Democrats Michael Dukakis and Geraldine Ferraro. Moreover, we were founded by Presidents Carter and Ford, as well as Senators Goldwater and McGovern. As a non-profit, non-partisan 501(c)(3), we are hardly an activist group. We neither support nor oppose any issues, candidates or parties.
The article then goes on to say that candidates' responses might leave them vulnerable to political attack and criticism, especially given that they are not allowed to elaborate on their answers. This could not be further from the truth. It has been made abundantly clear that at the end of every issue section, candidates are given the chance to elaborate on their responses, or write anything they want.
For more information about the Political Courage Test, please visit the Vote Smart web site: www.votesmart.org.