Fact check: The audacity of nope

Dan Liljenquist did indeed cast fewer “nay” votes than average during his time as a state senator.

A couple weeks, Dan Liljenquist posted a campaign video called “Audacity of Nope” to Youtube. In brief, he argued that the government should say “no” more often when people request government action.

Today, I’m seeing people on Twitter (@JulianBabbitt, @TerryLeeCamp, and @JDavola) linking to a response posted anonymously (classy…) to YouTube, called “Audacity of Nope?” Its claim: For a guy talking about the “audacity of nope,” Dan Liljenquist didn’t vote “no” very often during his time in the state senate.

I don’t want to get into a discussion of whether voting “nay” is a good thing (call it “the audacity of nope”) or a bad thing (call it “obstructionism”). But since the two sides are quibbling over this, I got curious enough to do a quick fact check. I’ve written before that “absent” votes are more common than “nay” votes in the Utah legislature. Given that “nay” votes are rare in legislative floor votes, my initial suspicion was that the response ad criticizing Liljenquist might be off base.

So, just for fun, I posted a new page to my website showing how often each legislator votes “nay.” As it happens, Dan Liljenquist did indeed cast fewer “nay” votes than average during his time as a state senator. In 2010, Dan Liljenquist cast fewer “nay” votes (1.9%) than any other state senator. In 2011, there were 6 senators (of 29) who cast fewer “nay” votes than he did.

Meanwhile, the Senate Republican who cast the most “nay” votes was Margaret Dayton in 2010 (8.0% of her votes) and also 2011 (5.7%). The complete data tables for 2007 through 2011 are available here.

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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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5 Responses to Fact check: The audacity of nope

  1. David Miller says:

    I don’t believe it is accurate to equate a “nay” vote with saying no to a request. Obviously there may be some correlation but voting against a bill is not always the same thing as saying no to a request (it might just be a way of saying “not like that”). Also, saying no to a request might not show up in votes because saying no early can prevent a vote from ever being taken.

    • Adam Brown says:

      “saying no to a request might not show up in votes because saying no early can prevent a vote from ever being taken.”

      That’s exactly why “no” votes are so rare in the legislature. Usually, a bill dies in committee (or earlier) if it’s got problems. That’s why bills that make it to the floor tend to pass by massive margins.

  2. Greg says:

    Curious if you rank all votes the same. Does a vote to repeal an existing law count the same as a vote to create a new law? Does a vote to create an entitlement count the same as a vote to retire one? Does a vote to raise taxes count the same as a vote to ower taxes?

    • Adam Brown says:

      It’s just a straight count.

      But thinking over the past two years, I can only think of one vote to repeal (GRAMA). I can’t recall any votes to raise taxes except the cigarette tax (HB196 in 2010). But my memory isn’t perfect. After all, there have been 1,495 bills introduced in the past two general sessions. If you go through them, I’d be curious to hear what you find.

  3. Matt says:

    Liljenquist’s video was referring to saying “nope” to giving away huge benefits to those who don’t need them. He even voted “yes” to reducing the size of his own pension. Yea = nope in this situation.

    Gotta love seeing the Hatch crew try to spread this around though. It must be hard to attack a guy’s record who hasn’t been around for 35 years.!

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