Friday, 26 February 2010

Senators Political Positions – Analysis Tools and Focusing on Scott Brown

Professor Boris Shor of the University of Chicago provides very helpful commentary on senatorial political positions in this website:

Shor and political science academics Jeff Lewis (UCLA) and Simon Jackman (Stanford) have collated and analysed voting records to provide a view of where each senator sits on the political spectrum. Shor provides a graph of the result which illustrates how far left (blue) or right (red) from the political US centre (point zero) each senator is placed:

According to Shor, new Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown is likely to be one of the most liberal Republicans in the house – a position also currently occupied by Olympia Snowe of Maine (one of the senators who voted with the Democrats this week on the Jobs Bill – see Katey’s post). Such relatively liberal views currently provide such Republican moderates with pivotal political positions. As Shor states:

“He (Brown) therefore becomes that pivotal 41st vote to sustain a filibuster and deadlock legislation (or the 60th vote to end a filibuster and pass it).
How far to the left of Snowe and how far to the right of Nelson is Brown? It’s difficult to tell exactly. In the spreadsheet, I put his score (in Jackman’s scale) at 0.299, or a smidgen to the left of Snowe (0.300). But he could just as well be just a touch to the right of Nelson (0.138), too. And his drifts left and right will be watched very carefully by President Obama and Congressional and party leaders, given his likely newfound status as the filibuster pivot. That’s a lot of power.”

Shor emphasises that Brown may vote more conservatively than he forecasts in which case Snowe may hold the pivotal ‘41st vote’. However, Shor also states that - given the political pressures he faces to be re-relected in 2012 – and unless he aims to run for the presidency – his liberal electorate will pull him more to the left.

His ideological position appears to be economically conservative but socially more liberal as:
- He’s against ‘cap-and-trade’ but pro environmental policy
- He’s against healthcare reform (the key issue which most of the mainstream media consider the reason he was elected in this formerly 'safe' Democratic seat)
- He’s pro limited government, free enterprise and less taxes
- He’s pro education improvements and anti-immigration
- He’s pro increased benefits for veterans (and he’s a National Guard officer)
- He’s pro guns and the death penalty but also pro abortion
- He’s personally (but not politically) opposed to gay marriage
- He supports the federal government’s foreign policy stance on Israel, Palestine and Iran

This is a handy tool to interrogate specific senator’s voting behaviour – and therefore assess their political views:

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the links to graphs and databases Cherie, really helpful.

    Scott Brown is proving to be a very interesting character.

    Reading through his political stance it appears quite obvious that the main reason people voted for him in Massachusetts was because of his Anti Health Care poosition.

    What stands out to me is his leaning towards Pro Abortion and Environmental Policy; not typically Republican supported concerns.
    If he intends to run for Presidency in 2012, the American public may indeed be more concerned with the state of the economy, taxes and anti-health care reform than such 'democratic' backed issues as the environment and pro abortion. This could work in his favour regarding the public's preoccupation with public sector issues.


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