Party support scores for the 2012 Utah legislature

Which legislators are most partisan in their legislative voting? A legislator’s “party support” score measures the percentage of the time that he votes the same as as the majority of his party. If a House Democrat votes “aye,” and so does the majority of House Democrats, then that boosts the legislator’s party support score.1

I’ve written previously that consensus voting is the norm in the Utah legislature, with very few party-line votes. Because most votes are unanimous, party support scores tend to be very high unless we implement a simple adjustment.

The adjustment: I calculate party support scores based ONLY on “party-line” votes. (A “party-line” vote occurs if the majority of Republicans votes against the majority of Democrats.) By calculating each legislator’s party support score only on party line votes, we can see which legislators are most willing to deviate from their party even when the vote might be close.

Party support scores (party-line votes only)

This table shows the 10 lowest and highest party support scores in the House, looking only at how legislators vote on party-line votes.

Representative Party Party support score (party-line votes only)
Powell, Kraig R 50.0%
Edwards, Rebecca P. R 57.6%
Hendrickson, Neal B. D 57.8%
Bird, Jim R 62.5%
McIff, Kay L. R 64.3%
Hutchings, Eric K. R 64.6%
Perry, Lee B. R 66.7%
Handy, Stephen G. R 67.7%
Pitcher, Dixon M. R 67.7%
Eliason, Steve R 68.2%
Painter, Patrick R 92.5%
McCay, Daniel R 93.0%
Arent, Patrice M. D 93.2%
Noel, Michael E. R 93.3%
Sumsion, Kenneth W. R 94.1%
Briscoe, Joel K. D 94.5%
Doughty, Brian D 95.7%
Barrus, Roger E. R 96.6%
Morley, Michael T. R 96.6%
Moss, Carol Spackman D 96.7%

And now, the 5 lowest and highest party support scores in the Senate, looking only at how legislators vote on party-line votes:

Senator Party Party support score (party-line votes only)
Hillyard, Lyle W. R 66.7%
Van Tassell, Kevin T. R 74.5%
Jones, Patricia W. D 76.2%
Davis, Gene D 78.1%
Mayne, Karen D 78.1%
Niederhauser, Wayne L. R 94.6%
Madsen, Mark B. R 94.8%
Okerlund, Ralph R 95.4%
Adams, J. Stuart R 96.7%
Anderson, Casey O. R 96.9%

Unadjusted party support scores (all votes)

For the curious, I thought I would show the unadjusted scores also. Scores are much higher when we look at all floor votes, not just party-line votes, for reasons stated above. The minimum score rises from 50.0% in the adjusted version to 83.8% in this version. We also see a significant re-ordering of legislators’ scores.

Here are the 10 lowest and highest unadjusted party support scores in the House, looking at all votes.

Representative Party Party support score (overall)
Dougall, John R 83.8%
Bird, Jim R 86.8%
McCay, Daniel R 87.6%
Sumsion, Kenneth W. R 88.5%
Anderson, Johnny R 89.2%
Morley, Michael T. R 90.2%
Butterfield, David G. R 90.3%
Powell, Kraig R 90.4%
Nielson, Jim R 91.2%
Frank, Craig A. R 91.3%
Noel, Michael E. R 96.7%
Seelig, Jennifer M. D 96.7%
Briscoe, Joel K. D 97.0%
Barrus, Roger E. R 97.1%
King, Brian S. D 97.3%
Arent, Patrice M. D 97.4%
Ipson, Don L. R 97.4%
Cosgrove, Tim M. D 97.6%
Poulson, Marie H. D 98.0%
Moss, Carol Spackman D 98.1%

And the 5 lowest and highest scores in the Senate:

Senator Party Party support score (overall)
Anderson, Casey O. R 90.1%
Dayton, Margaret R 91.2%
Stephenson, Howard A. R 94.2%
Jenkins, Scott K. R 94.3%
Hillyard, Lyle W. R 94.4%
Bramble, Curtis S. R 98.2%
Knudson, Peter C. R 98.3%
Stevenson, Jerry W. R 98.3%
Christensen, Allen M. R 98.4%
Okerlund, Ralph R 98.8%

Discussion

Several things are interesting about these scores. For one thing, note that Rep. John Dougall has the lowest party support score in the unadjusted data, but far from the lowest in the adjusted data. In fact, his unadjusted score (83.8%) is well below the House average (94.3%), but his adjusted score (87.8%) is easily above the House average (82.7%). This flip suggests that he’s more than willing to vote against his party when his vote is unlikely to change the outcome, but he is far more likely to vote with his party when the vote is potentially close.

Others, like Jim Bird, have a low party support score by both metrics.

Caveat: This is not a measure of whether a legislator is a “good” Republican or a “good” Democrat. It is only a measure of how often each legislator votes with his/her own party. Maybe a particular legislator is the only “good” or “bad” Republican (or Democrat) in the entire chamber, and it’s the rest who are “bad.” You’ll have to judge that on your own.

Complete data tables

You can find party support scores (both flavors) for all legislators at my other website.

Possibly related posts:

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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