Parting the party lines: How partisan is your legislator?

150 150 Courtney M. Fowler

Screen capture of info on Central Los Angeles, courtesy of Open States

Modern day politics is built on the idea of partisanship, with legislative candidates creating entire campaigns to tout their strongly liberal or conservative bona fides.

The new open primary in California that was promoted by California Forward and others appears to be having an impact on reducing the hyper-partisanship that once  paralyzed California’s state Legislature. Even so, party labels still matter. Just ask Eric Cantor.

All this begs the question: just how partisan are your legislators?

That’s what the Sunlight Foundation is asking. Sunlight is a nonprofit organization that promotes making government at the local, state and national levels more transparent and accountable. This week they published a blog touting their Open States project by featuring an interactive graph that assesses the performance of legislators in all 50 states based on their voting record and partisan affiliation. The graph directly contrasts the success of officials sponsored legislation against their political ideology. 

“It is one thing to have anecdotal evidence of a legislator’s ideological leanings; it is a whole another things to have those observations backed by the data displayed in Sunlight’s visualization,” said Phillip Ung, director of public affairs for CA Fwd. “The data shows that legislators are actually more partisan than they would like to portray.”

There are numbers for how many of their own bills that they’ve passed and how many of the opposing parties bills they’ve passed. The overall score of each candidate is established on the how the two numbers compare.

The chart was created using information obtained from the Open States project, which allows you to view legislators, bills and their statutes from every state. You can also view proposed and approved actions by their subject. 

California Democrats have been significantly more successful than their Republican counterparts in getting their sponsored legislation approved during the 2013-2014 term; perhaps the perks of being the majority party. The most successful legislator is Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg who scored the highest on the chart with 15.24, putting his performance in the 97th percentile nationwide. In contrast, the number is nine points higher than the top Republican legislator, Anthony Cannella, who scored in 52nd percentile. 

To see more all of the how all of California’s officials measure up, visit the Sunlight Foundation blog.


Courtney M. Fowler

All stories by: Courtney M. Fowler