Is Rep. Dougall the same (ideologically) as Rep. Frank?

Utah news has been aflutter for the past week about an error made by the Utah County Clerk’s office that results in Rep. Craig Frank losing his seat. Seems that a couple thousand Utahns–including Frank–who thought they lived in Frank’s district actually live in Rep. John Dougall’s district. So now those voters–who voted for Frank in the 2010 elections–will be represented by Dougall, who they didn’t have an opportunity to vote for or against.

Here’s a question. Does it matter? Can those voters expect the same sorts of policy choices from Dougall that they could have had from Frank? Let’s turn to the numbers.

Each year, several interest groups rate Utah’s legislators on their votes. By averaging across these ratings, we can assign each legislator a score from 0 (solidly liberal) to 100 (solidly conservative). In practice, nobody ever scores a perfect 0 or a perfect 100. But it looks like Frank is a fair amount more conservative than Dougall. Here it is:

Ideology scores: Frank vs Dougall (2010)

Ideology scores: Frank vs Dougall (2010)

You see that the typical Democratic legislator has a score between 30 and 40, and the typical Republican legislator has a score between 70 and 80. Dougall’s score was 73, placing him left of ousted speaker David Clark (74.8), new speaker Becky Lockhart (80.8), and especially Craig Frank (84.7). So based on these scores from 2010, Dougall is quite a bit more moderate than Craig Frank. Frank is clearly in the Republican party’s conservative wing; Dougall is in the party’s more moderate wing.

Even if we reach back to data from 2008, we see the same general pattern. Here’s the same figure, but using older data:

Ideology scores: Frank vs Dougall (2008)

Ideology scores: Frank vs Dougall (2008)

In 2008, the gap between Dougall and Frank wasn’t as big as in 2010. Both Dougall and Frank were in the Republican party’s conservative wing in 2008. Still, there was a bit of a gap.

My point isn’t that Dougall’s views are better than Frank’s, or that Frank’s are better than Dougall’s. My point is that this mistake by the Utah County Clerk may have meaningful differences for a few thousand voters residents who were effectively disenfranchised. (Update: Apparently the 2500 or so residents translates into a few hundred actual voters.)

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About Adam Brown

Adam Brown is an assistant professor of political science at Brigham Young University and a research fellow with the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy. You can learn more about him at his website.
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4 Responses to Is Rep. Dougall the same (ideologically) as Rep. Frank?

  1. Daniel B says:

    Good analysis, but it might smooth over the policy differences a little to blithely to be completely accurate. First of all: what are the interest groups that are making the policy ratings? Second: wouldn’t the level of “conservatism” vary from issue to issue? Might not Rep. Dougall be more conservative in on one policy than Rep. Frank, and vice versa? And last, voters don’t really vote with a highly sophisticated level of perception, so isn’t the difference between being represented by Dougall versus being represented by the other guy on the ballot (a Democrat, I would venture, if such a thing exists in Utah County off of BYU’s campus) more significant?

    • Adam Brown says:

      Good points. There are several groups making the ratings. I average across all of them. So although it’s true that conservatism may vary from issue to issue, I’m hoping that averages out.

      The difference between Dougall and Frank is more important than the difference between either and a Democrat. Democrats rarely win in Utah County, so what matters most is the Republican nomination. And that’s always a battle between conservative and moderate Republicans, the two “parties” that matter down here. So if Dougall and Frank are potentially on opposite sides of that divide, that’s a big deal in Utah County.

      For reference, these are the groups issuing ratings. I rescale them all from 0 to 100 and average across them: GrassRoots (a conservative group), Utah Education Association, Utah Taxpayers Association, Utahns for Immigration Reform and Enforcement (UFIRE), Parents for Choice in Education, and the Sierra Club.

      • Daniel B says:

        Thanks for the clarification. I don’t know if conventions, even in UT county are ALWAYS between a moderate and a conservative or if they are more between a conservative and an even MORE conservative candidate, but I do agree on your point: it’s the race that matters and it’s usually about who is more conservative.

        Thanks, and thanks for the always interesting analysis.

  2. Ernest T. Bramwell says:

    The essence is that the vote of 2550 citizens has been thrown out.
    The Legislature needs to correct the boundary immediately, as its highest priority. Any other action, or lack thereof, shows contempt for 2550 voters and for the Utah constitution’s intent. It is completely unreasonable to force the people to acquaint themselves with potential candidates and select a new representative in ten days’ time.
    Representative Frank was elected and certified. The boundary issue was not of his making or of the peoples’ making. And, they should not be made the casualties of it.

    Signed,
    Ernest Bramwell
    Utah County Delegate

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