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Guide to Usage


The following guide explains the information sources used by the Almanac of American Politics. Much of the tabular information was provided by Polidata, a Virginia-based political statistics and demographics firm. Other major sources of information include the U.S. Census Bureau and the staffs of National Journal and The Cook Political Report. The 2014 Almanac uses the latest available data and offers significant updates from the previous edition of the book, published in 2011. Figures released by the Census Bureau may vary slightly from those used by the Almanac due to different methods of data aggregation or tabulation. Percentages used in the book may not add up to 100% because of rounding.


Biography

This section lists the date each governor, senator, and representative was elected or appointed, the date and place of birth, college degrees earned, religion, marital status, and, if applicable, spouse’s name and number of children. Also provided is a brief outline of the subject’s past elected offices, professional career and military service, and office addresses, telephone numbers, and websites. Committee and subcommittee assignments are current as of May 2013. (Note: On many committees, the chairman and ranking minority member are ex officio members of subcommittees. Listings do not appear for the congressional leaders who are not assigned to committees.)


Group Ratings

The congressional ratings by 10 interest groups provide insight into a legislator’s general ideology and the degree to which he or she reflects the group’s point of view. Some organizations provided just one rating for 2011 and 2012, the two sessions of the 112th Congress.

ADA: Americans for Democratic Action
Liberal: Since its founding in 1947, ADA has pushed for less defense spending and greater protection of civil liberties and human rights. The ADA selects 20 key votes a year for its analysis.

ACLU: American Civil Liberties Union
Pro-individual liberties: ACLU seeks to protect individuals from what it views as legal, executive, and congressional infringements on civil liberties. The ACLU compiles one, combined score for each two-year Congress. (C = Combined)

AFSCME: American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees
Liberal labor: The nation’s largest public service employees union, AFSCME is committed to improving working conditions through collective bargaining. Its analysis is based on roll call votes in 2011. Its 2012 analysis was not available at press time.

LCV: League of Conservation Voters
Environmental: Formed in 1970, LCV is the arm of the environmental movement that works to elect pro-environmental protection candidates to Congress. LCV ratings are based on key votes on energy, environment, and natural resources legislation in 2011 and 2012.

ITIC: Information Technology Industry Council
High-tech industry: ITIC represents the leading U.S. providers of information technology products and services. It provides one, combined score for each two-year Congress. (C = Combined)

NTU: National Taxpayers Union
Pro-taxpayer rights: The NTU is the nation’s oldest taxpayers’ rights group. It analyzes votes that significantly affect federal taxes, regulations, and spending and debt. Its scores are annual.

COC: U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Pro-business: COC represents local, regional, and state chambers of commerce in addition to trade and professional organizations. Its analysis is based on roll call votes in 2011. Its 2012 analysis was not available at press time.

ACU: American Conservative Union
Conservative: Since 1971, ACU ratings have provided a means of gauging the conservatism of members of Congress on foreign policy, social, and budget issues. Its scores are annual.

CFG: Club for Growth
Pro-tax limitation: CFG supports limited government, lower taxes, and policies it deems favorable to economic growth. CFG's annual ratings are based on key votes on taxes, trade, and the economy.

FRC: Family Research Council
Conservative: The FRC promotes marriage and family and advocates for policies that uphold Judeo-Christian values. Its annual ratings are based on votes on abortion and family issues.


National Journal Ratings

National Journal’s rating system is a method of analyzing congressional voting. Every year, the magazine compiles a list of congressional roll call votes and classifies them as economic, social, or foreign policy-related. The votes in each issue area are subjected to a principal-components analysis, a statistical procedure designed to determine the degree to which each vote resembles other votes in the same category (the same members of Congress tending to vote together). The analysis also reveals which "yea" votes correlated with which "nay" votes within each issue area (members voting yea on certain issues tended to vote nay on others). The yea and nay positions on each roll call are then identified as conservative or liberal. Each roll call vote is assigned a weight from one (lowest) to three (highest), based on the degree to which it correlates with other votes in the same issue area. A higher weight means that vote is more strongly correlated with other votes and is therefore a better test of economic, social, or foreign policy ideology. Members of Congress who participate in at least half of the votes in an area receive ratings. Members who miss more than half the votes are not scored (shown as *). Absences and abstentions are not counted.

Members of Congress are then ranked according to relative liberalism and conservatism. Finally, they are assigned percentiles showing their rank relative to others in the chamber. The liberal percentage score means that the member’s votes were more liberal than that percentage of his or her colleagues’ votes in that issue area in the year indicated. The conservative score means that the member’s votes were more conservative than that percentage of his or her colleagues’ votes in that issue area. The composite score is an average of a member’s three issue-based scores.


Key Votes

The key votes section illustrates a legislator’s stances on important issues and provides clues to his or her general ideology. The following key votes, selected by the Almanac staff, took place during the 112th Congress (2011-12). A member who was absent, declined to vote, or was not in office at the time receives an *. The letter P signifies a vote of "present"; the letters NV stand for "not voting." Roll call data were obtained from the House clerk and Senate secretary.


House Votes:
  1. Raise debt limit
    A bill to increase the limit on the amount the country can incur in debt.
    House Vote 690, S 365 (Aug. 1, 2011)
    Passed. Yea: 269, Nay: 161
    (D: 95-95, NV-3; R: 174-66)

  2. Approve cut, cap, balance
    Approve a Republican bill capping fiscal 2012 discretionary spending.
    House Vote 606, HR 2560 (July 19, 2011)
    Passed. Yea: 234, Nay: 190
    (D: 5-181, NV-7; R: 229-9, NV-1)

  3. Defund Planned Parent.
    Bar funding for the Planned Parenthood family planning organization.
    House Vote 93, HR 1 (Feb. 18, 2011)
    Passed.Yea: 240, Nay: 185
    (D: 10-178, NV-5; R: 230-7, P-1, NV-2)

  4. Repeal lightbulb ban
    Repeal energy efficiency standards for incandescent lightbulbs. Two-thirds required for passage.
    House Vote 563, HR 2417 (July 12, 2011)
    Rejected.Yea: 233, Nay: 193
    (D: 5-183, NV-4; R: 228-10, P-1)

  5. Add endangered listings
    Allow the Fish and Wildlife Service to list new species and habitats for protection under the Endangered Species Act.
    House Vote 652, HR 2584 (July 27, 2011)
    Passed. Yea: 224, Nay: 202
    (D: 187-2, NV-4; R: 37-200, NV-2)

  6. Speed troop withdrawal
    Require the president to submit a plan for an accelerated withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
    House Vote 373, HR 1540 (May 26, 2011)
    Rejected. Yea: 204, Nay: 215
    (D: 178-8, NV-6; R: 26-207, NV-6)

  7. Pass GOP budget
    Pass the Republicans' fiscal 2013 budget with steep spending cuts and significant changes to Medicare. The resolution was also known as the Paul Ryan budget.
    House Vote 151, HCR 112 (March 29, 2012)
    Passed. Yea: 228, Nay: 191
    (D: 0-181, NV-9; R: 228-10, NV-3)

  8. End fiscal cliff
    Extend Bush-era tax cuts except for high-income households, and in effect, avert the "fiscal cliff" of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts.
    House Vote 659, HR 8 (Jan. 1, 2013)
    Passed. Yea: 257, Nay: 167
    (D: 172-16, NV-3; R: 85-151, NV-5)

  9. Extend payroll tax cut
    Extend through the end of 2012 a Social Security payroll tax cut, unemployment benefits, and doctors' Medicare payments.
    House Vote 72, HR 3630 (Feb. 17, 2012)
    Passed. Yea: 293, Nay: 132
    (D: 147-41, NV-4; R: 146-91, NV-4)

  10. Hold AG in contempt
    Cite Attorney General Eric Holder for contempt of Congress for refusing to provide documents related to the "Fast and Furious" operation.
    House Vote 441, HR 711 (June 28, 2012)
    Passed. Yea: 255, Nay: 67
    (D: 17-65, P-1, NV-108; R: 238-2, NV-1)
    Note: Many Democrats left the chamber in protest of the Republican-sponsored contempt motion and so did not vote.

  11. Stop student loan hike
    Suspend for one year a scheduled increase in federal student loan rates and defund part of the 2010 health care law.
    House Vote 195, HR 4628 (April 27, 2012)
    Passed. Yea: 215, Nay: 195
    (D: 13-165, NV-12; R:202-30, NV-10)

  12. Repeal health care law
    Repeal President Barack Obama's 2010 health care law.
    House Vote 460, HR 6079 (July 11, 2012)
    Passed. Yea: 244, Nay: 185
    (D: 5-185, NV-1; R: 239-0, NV-1)



Senate Votes:
  1. Raise debt limit
    A bill to increase the limit on the amount the country can incur in debt. Sixty votes required for passage.
    Senate Vote 123, S 365 (Aug. 2, 2011)
    Passed. Yea: 74, Nay: 26
    (D: 45-6; R: 28-19; I: 1-1)

  2. Pass bal. budget amend.
    Approve a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. Supermajority of 67 votes required for passage.
    Senate Vote 229, SJR 10 (Dec. 14, 2011)
    Rejected. Yea: 47, Nay: 53
    (D: 0-51; R: 47-0; I: 0-2)

  3. Stop EPA climate regs
    Prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions. Sixty votes required for passage.
    Senate Vote 54, S 493 (April 6, 2011)
    Rejected. Yea: 50, Nay: 50
    (D: 4-47; R: 46-1; I: 0-2)

  4. Let Cordray vote proceed
    Cut off the filibuster of the nomination of Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Sixty votes required to cut off the filibuster.
    Senate Vote 223, PN 784 (Dec. 8, 2011)
    Rejected. Yea: 53, Nay: 45
    (D: 50-0, NV-1; R: 1-45, P-1; I: 2-0)

  5. Require talking filibuster
    Require senators to talk continuously on the floor when they filibuster a bill, ending the current practice of threatening to filibuster and forcing bill sponsors to get 60 votes to end the theoretical filibuster. Supermajority of 67 votes required for passage.
    Senate Vote 6, SR 21 (Jan. 27, 2011)
    Rejected. Yea: 46, Nay: 49
    (D: 44-4, NV-3; R: 0-45, NV-2; I: 2-0)

  6. Limit Fannie/Freddie
    Limit funding for the quasi-governmental mortgage agencies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Sixty votes required for passage.
    Senate Vote 179, HR 2112 (Oct. 20, 2011)
    Rejected. Yea: 41, Nay: 57
    (D: 0-50, NV-1; R: 41-5, P-1: I: 0-2)

  7. End fiscal cliff
    Extend Bush-era tax cuts except for high-income households, and in effect, avert the "fiscal cliff" of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts. Sixty votes required for passage.
    Senate Vote 251, HR 8 (Jan. 1, 2013)
    Passed. Yea: 89Nay: 8
    (D: 47-3, NV-1; R: 40-5, NV-2; I: 2-0)

  8. Block faith exemptions
    Kill a proposal to create religion-based exemptions to the Obama administration rule requiring medical insurance coverage of contraceptive services.
    Senate Vote 24, S 1813 (March 1, 2012)
    Passed. Yea: 51, Nay: 48
    (D: 48-3; R: 1-45, NV-1; I: 2-0)

  9. Approve gas pipeline
    Approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline between Canada and U.S. Gulf Coast refineries without further executive branch review. Sixty votes required for passage.
    Senate Vote 34, S 1813 (March 8, 2012)
    Rejected. Yea: 56, Nay: 42
    (D: 11-40; R: 45-0, NV-2; I: 0-2)/li>
  10. Approve farm bill
    Pass five-year reauthorization of federal farm and nutrition programs. Sixty votes required for passage.
    Senate Vote 164, S 3240 (June 21, 2012)
    Passed. Yea: 64, Nay: 35
    (D: 46-5; R: 16-30, NV-1; I: 2-0)

  11. Let cyber bill proceed
    End a threatened filibuster and proceed to a vote on a bill setting mandatory security standards for vital, but privately owned, digital infrastructure. Sixty votes required for passage.
    Senate Vote 187, S 3414 (Aug. 2, 2012)
    Rejected. Yea: 52, Nay: 46
    (D: 45-6; R: 5-40, NV-2; I: 2-0)

  12. Block Gitmo transfers
    Approve an amendment blocking the transfer of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the United States.
    Senate Vote 212, S 3254 (Nov. 29, 2012)
    Passed. Yea: 54, Nay: 41
    (D: 9-40, NV-2; R: 44-0, NV-3: I: 1-1)

  13. NOTE:Freshman members of the House, because they took office in January 2013, do not have key votes or vote scores from the interest groups and National Journal for the 112th Congress (2011-12). Freshman senators have vote scores if they served in the House.

    Election Results

    The most recent election results are listed for senators and governors. For House members, the results are from the 2012 primary and general elections, as well as any runoffs in 2012 or special elections held since November 2010. Candidates in primaries receiving less than 5% (before rounding) of the total vote and candidates in general elections receiving less than 2% (before rounding) of the total were excluded. Election results were supplied by Polidata.

    Prior Winning Percentages: The incumbent's winning percentages in earlier elections.

    Presidential Vote Box: Polidata estimates the presidential vote by congressional district from information it collects from state and local election offices. Some states readily provide district-level presidential vote data. By necessity, other results are aggregated from precinct-level returns. Voting data from districts with split precincts and centrally counted absentee votes should be considered estimates; the allocation of these unassigned votes is determined by Polidata. The 2008 presidential results by congressional district are extrapolations showing how the district would have voted for president that year if the current, post-2010 census boundaries had been in place.

    Cook Partisan Voting Index: Developed in 1997 by political analyst Charlie Cook, the partisan voting index (PVI) is designed to provide an overall assessment of a state or congressional district’s generic partisan strength. The PVI measures a state or district’s recent partisan performance at the presidential level (district value) against that of the nation as a whole (national value). For this volume, the calculations are based on an average of 2008 and 2012 presidential election data for each district, based on the congressional district boundaries that were in place in November 2012. Both years carry equal weight. Only votes for major party nominees are considered. The national Democratic value is roughly 52.8% (an average of Barack Obama’s 53.7% share in 2008 and 52% share in 2012) and the national Republican value is about 47.2%. Thus, if Obama won an average of 57.8% of the two-party vote in a given district, the district’s PVI would be D+5, because it voted 5 percentage points more Democratic than the national average. A PVI value of “even” indicates an evenly balanced district.


    Demographics

    Population: Figures are from the 2010 census and the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS).

    Urban/rural population: The percentage of total population living in areas defined by the bureau as urban or rural.

    Land area: Size of district in square miles, excluding water.

    Veterans: People who were formerly in the Armed Forces as a percentage of the civilian voting age population.

    Race/ethnicity: As defined by the Census Bureau, race reflects individual respondents' perceptions of their racial identity. Hispanic origin is defined as an ethnicity. Persons of Latino or Hispanic origin may be of any race for census purposes. People who self-identify as Hispanic or Latino are included in both the black population percentages and the white population percentages. The numbers provided for each racial or ethnic group represent a percentage of all people in a state or a congressional district.

    Education: H.S. grad. or higher refers to people with a high school diploma and possibly, but not necessarily, some college credits. Bach. degree or higher refers to people with at least a bachelor’s degree and possible more advanced degrees. Both are a percentage of people 25 years and older.

    Voter registration by party: The number of registered voters by political party. The individual states’ election bureaus provided figures. Some states have no voter registration by party, and North Dakota does not have voter registration. Ind./others refers to independent voters or those from minor parties.

    Voter turnout: The share of the total estimated voting age population that voted in the 2012 presidential election. Basing calculations on voting age population permits comparisons across states and across districts, but it does not account for voting age persons who are not eligible to vote due to the status of their residency and citizenship, for example.

    Legislature: A breakdown of the membership of the state’s legislature by party affiliation. Figures reflect the status as legislative sessions began in 2013, and do not count or include any vacancies existing at the time. D refers to Democrats; R refers to Republicans; I refers to independents.

    Ancestry: Ethnic origin or descent. This category provides data for groups that were generally not included in the Census Bureau’s Hispanic origin and race questions. Thus, it does not reflect diversity within Hispanic and Asian subgroups. American is a response volunteered in lieu of other ancestry. Sub-Saharan refers to the census category of “Sub-Saharan African.” West Indian excludes Hispanic groups.

    Hispanic groups: Indicates the specific country or region of origin for people who identified as Hispanic in the census. For example, 83% Mexican refers to the portion of the total number of Hispanics (not the total population) in a state who say their origin is Mexico.

    Language: The percentage of households speaking a certain language as a percentage of people 5 years and older. The abbreviation Other European refers to other Indo-European languages.

    Work sector: A classification of people in the labor force (16 years and older). Private refers to people employed by private for-profit or not-for-profit organizations on a wage or salary basis. Government refers to federal, state, and local government employees.

    Unemployment: Unemployed, non-military people 16 years and older as a percentage of the labor force. Differences may be found between some information reported by the Census Bureau and other well-known information, such as the unemployment rate reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    Poverty: The percentage of people 16 years and older for whom poverty status has been determined and who fall below the poverty line, defined by the federal government in 2011 as a family of four living on $22,300 or less a year.

    Occupation (“collar”): The percentage of employed persons in the labor force (16 years and older). White collar refers to managerial, professional, sales, and administrative occupations. Blue collar refers to construction, production, and transportation occupations.

    Household income: Household income as a percentage of all households.

    Home value: Refers to self-estimated market value of owner-occupied units.

    Most populous cities: City population figures are from the 2010 census.

    Native of state: People born in their state of residence as a percentage of total population.

    Abbreviations

    ACLU: American Civil Liberties Union
    ACU: American Conservative Union
    ADA: Americans for Democratic Action
    AFDC: Aid to Families with Dependent Children
    AFL-CIO: American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations
    AFS: American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
    AID: Agency for International Development
    ANWR: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
    BL: Better Life Party
    C: Conservative Party (NY)
    CAFE: Corporate Average Fuel Economy
    CAFTA: Central America Free Trade Agreement
    CFG: Club for Growth
    CHMN: Chairman
    CHOB: Cannon House Office Building
    CIA: Central Intelligence Agency
    CNP: Constitution Party
    COC: United States Chamber of Commerce
    COLA: Cost of Living Adjustment
    D: Democratic Party
    DCCC: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
    DFL: Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (MN)
    DLC: Democratic Leadership Council
    DNC: Democratic National Committee
    DSCC: Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
    DSOB: Dirksen Senate Office Building
    EMILY: EMILY’s List (Early Money is Like Yeast)
    ERISA: Employee Retirement Income Security Act
    FEC: Federal Election Commission
    FERC: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
    FRC: Family Research Council
    GOP: Republican Party (Grand Old Party)
    Green: Green Party
    H: Capitol Building Room (House side)
    HSOB: Hart Senate Office Building
    I: Independent
    IAP: Independent American Party (NV)
    IC: Independent Conservative
    ID: Independent Democrat
    IG: Independent Green
    Ind: Independence Party
    ITIC:Information Technology Industry Council
    L: Liberal Party
    LCV: League of Conservation Voters
    LHOB: Longworth House Office Building
    Lib: Libertarian Party
    Mod: Moderate Party
    NAFTA: North American Free Trade Agreement
    NARAL: NARAL Pro-Choice America
    NFIB: National Federation of Independent Business
    NL: Natural Law Party
    NP: Non-Partisan
    NPA: No Party Affiliation
    NRCC: National Republican Congressional Committee
    NRSC: National Republican Senatorial Committee
    NSA: National Security Agency
    NTU: National Taxpayers Union
    PF: Peace and Freedom Party
    PNP: New Progressive Party (PR) (Spanish: Partido Nuevo Progresista)
    POP: Populist Party
    PPD: Popular Democratic Party (PR) (Spanish: Partido Popular Democrático)
    PRG: Progressive Party
    R: Republican Party
    Ref: Reform Party
    RHOB: Rayburn House Office Building
    RMM: Ranking Minority Member
    RNC: Republican National Committee
    RSOB: Russell Senate Office Building
    RTL: Right-to-Life Party
    S: Capitol Building Room (Senate side)
    SOC: Socialist Party
    SW: Socialist Workers Party
    UAW: United Auto Workers
    UMJ: United States Marijuana Party
    WF: Working Families
    WI: Write In
 
About Almanac
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The Almanac is a members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics. Comprehensive online profiles include biographical and political summaries of elected officials, campaign expenditures, voting records, interest-group ratings, and congressional staff look-ups. In-depth overviews of each state and house district are included as well, along with demographic data, analysis of voting trends, and political histories.
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