Thursday, December 18, 2008

Congressional Quarterly's 2008 Annual Vote Studies Report Now Available

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Congressional Quarterly Inc., the nation's premier provider of news, analysis and information on Congress, politics and public policy, today announced the release of its Annual Vote Studies Report for 2008. CQ has studied the voting behavior of members of Congress for more than half a century, in particular assessing how often lawmakers side with members of their own caucus on votes when the two parties divide, and how often they back the president on votes where he has demonstrated a clear position.

Published in the Dec. 15, 2008, issue of CQ Weekly (, the CQ Vote Studies report adheres to a specific and consistent methodology to deliver conclusive findings. The findings are unique because CQ's approach is quantitative, unlike other vote studies that rely largely on the judgment of their reporters and editors.

"CQ takes a more empirical approach and calculates how often members actually vote with their party or the president," said Mike Riley, editor and senior vice president of CQ. "We don't try to establish a litmus test or ideological labels because it is easy to poke holes in the legitimacy of that sort of analysis. What we're looking for is something that more closely represents how members might characterize their own votes.

Riley added, "We find that a whole host of players -- political campaigns, the media and academia, to name a few -- rely heavily on our analysis. We are pleased to be able to provide this information, and feel it is consistent with CQ's long-standing mission of providing accurate, non-partisan information on Congress and politics."

The past year showed a continuation of the high level of partisanship that has divided Capitol Hill for more than a decade. And with the Democrats in charge in this highly polarized environment, President Bush achieved far less than he enjoyed during the first six years of his presidency, although he was able to prevail on big occasions with a combination of compromise and procedural clout.

As CQ reporter Shawn Zeller writes in the story accompanying the 2008 party unity study, "Eight years ago, George W. Bush arrived in Washington promising to bring a central claim of his presidential campaign -- 'I'm a uniter, not a divider' -- to bear in his dealings with Congress. He leaves next month having presided over the most polarized period at the Capitol since Congressional Quarterly began quantifying partisanship in the House and Senate in 1953. That reality is reflected both in the relatively high percentage of party unity votes -- those that pit a majority of Republicans against a majority of Democrats -- and in the increasing propensity of individual lawmakers to vote with their fellow partisans."

Among the central findings of CQ's party unity study:

House Democrats voted on average with the majority of their caucus 92 percent of the time, tying the high-water mark for cohesion that they set last year.

House Republicans stuck together 87 percent of the time, a figure higher than a year ago, and just below their record of 91 percent, reached three times: in 1995, 2001 and 2003.

Senate Democrats voted as a unified caucus 87 percent of the time, a shade below their all-time high of 89 percent reached in 1999 and 2001.

Senate Republicans stuck together 83 percent of the time, higher than in 2007, though below their high mark of 94 percent set in 2003.

CQ's study of presidential support in 2008 found that President Bush had the second worst year of his presidency. As CQ reporter Richard Rubin writes in the story accompanying the study, "Bush should have been the ultimate lame duck, a president with no ability to press his agenda in Congress or to prevent members of his party from abandoning White House policies to save their careers. For the most part, that's exactly what happened."

Among the central findings of CQ's presidential support study:

Bush prevailed on just 47.8 percent of roll call votes on which he took a clear position, the eighth-lowest score in the 56-year history of the survey, although higher than Bush's 38.3 percent success rate in 2007.

As moderate GOP lawmakers fled from the president, the average House Republican supported Bush just 64 percent of the time. That's down 8 percentage points from a year ago and the lowest for a president's party since 1990. Bush's average support score of 70 percent among GOP senators also was the lowest for a president's party since 1990.

Democrats voted with Bush far less often than they had when the Republicans were in charge and could set the agenda. House Democrats voted with Bush just 16 percent of the time on average -- just above their 2007 support score of 7 percent and the second lowest for any president. Democratic senators supported Bush on 34 percent of roll call votes, down from their average support score of 37 percent a year ago.

The Party Unity study examined all roll call votes where a majority of one party voted against a majority of the other party. During the second session of the 110th Congress, there were 367 such votes in the House (53 percent of all votes), and 111 in the Senate (52 percent). The Presidential Support study was based on 80 House votes and 54 Senate votes for which CQ editors determined that Bush had taken a clear position prior to the vote. Overall in 2008, there were 688 such roll call votes in the House (not counting two quorum calls where lawmakers are only allowed to vote "present") and 215 in the Senate.

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