Who has the most political courage?

Based on responses to Vote Smart’s Political Courage Test, Independent candidates for federal and state office far exceeded Republicans and Democrats in 2018 when it came to political courage.

In other words, Independents were more transparent and willing to provide voters with clear stances on key issues.

About the Political Courage Test

The Political Courage Test is a collaborative effort between Vote Smart and over 200 political scientists, journalists, and leaders from across the spectrum. The issues included on the Test are the top concerns of the American people.

It measures each candidate’s willingness to answer the voter’s questions. National leaders, media and Vote Smart continually ask them to provide answers.

What is noticeable and somewhat alarming is the very low political courage of incumbents from both major parties.

U.S. House and Senate Congressional Races

  • Overall Pass Rate: 27%
  • Major Party Pass Rate: 20%
  • Independent / 3rd Party Pass Rate: 43.2%
  • Incumbent Pass Rate: 10.8%
  • Challenger Pass Rate: 34.2%
  • Republican Incumbent Pass Rate: 6.5%
  • Democrat Incumbent Pass Rate: 14.8%
  • 1,200 candidates refused to answer Courage Test questions. Vote Smart staff carefully analyzed the public records of each failing candidate and answered on their behalf. All 1,200 candidates reviewed those answers and zero found errors.


  • Overall Pass Rate: 24%
  • Major Party Pass Rate: 7%
  • Independent Pass Rate: 36.5%
  • Incumbent Pass Rate: 0%
  • Challenger Pass Rate: 26.7%

State Legislative

  • Overall Pass Rate: 10%
  • Major Party Pass Rate: 9%
  • Independent Pass Rate: 21.9%
  • Incumbent Pass Rate: 4.3%
  • Challenger Pass Rate: 14.5%
Vote Smart blog
Learn your candidate’s political courage
Leone’s Political Courage Test