Candidate Evaluations

Candidate Evaluations

In 2022, iVoterGuide is covering candidates in federal races in all 50 states; federal and statewide races in 35 states; federal, statewide, and state legislative races in 33 states; statewide Supreme Court candidates at least 26 states; and select school board races.

iVoterGuide not only follows the money and the votes, we look at past and current supporters, as well as what the candidates say about themselves. We also provide candidate evaluations based on comprehensive research and assessment of the following four areas:

    • campaign finance data
    • endorsements
    • legislative scorecards
    • candidate questionnaires

When iVoterGuide evaluates judicial candidates, we also consider the candidate’s previous rulings, awards, memberships in professional societies, and – when applicable – take into consideration the political philosophy of the state or federal executive who appointed them. We also analyze the candidates’ previous court rulings, paying special attention to controversial cases that the candidates decided on appellate courts.

iVoterGuide provides a depth and breadth of research not offered by any other voter guide.

Each of the four research areas is explained in more detail below.

Legislative Scorecards

iVoterGuide gets legislative scorecards from over 400 organizations across the country. To help ensure that we represent a balanced view, we go to national and statewide organizations as well as to liberal and conservative organizations.

Each of the organizations’ scores are visible on the candidate profile page, as is a graph aggregating the scores and showing them as percentages on liberal and conservative spectrums.

Why are scorecards important?

Scorecards reflect grades, ratings, or scores given by third-party organizations to candidates based upon actual votes cast for certain bills or measures since they have been in office. iVoterGuide considers this data to be very important when evaluating candidates because it is outside evidence of a candidate’s commitment to their values and to their campaign promises.

Campaign Finance Data

Records are obtained from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and state-level agencies to identify donations given and/or received by federal and state-level candidates. iVoterGuide maintains over 100 million records in our database, and the list is updated regularly.

Why is the money trail important?

Money shows us links between people and organizations and also gives insight into stances on important issues.

Although people, corporations, and organizations give money for many reasons, iVoterGuide puts the most weight on issue-driven donations because they go to the heart of how a candidate will vote on topics most important to you.

Endorsements

We ask the candidates directly for endorsements they receive. We go further, though, and gather endorsements from both liberal and conservative organizations and individuals. We currently search over 3,000 organizations and individuals for endorsement information.

Why are endorsements important?

Endorsements in campaigns are much like references for a job interview. They help define candidates and establish their credibility.

Candidate Questionnaires

Every candidate in a covered race is invited to participate in our issues questionnaire, which is a carefully chosen list of questions, specifically targeted for the type of offices included in the election (federal, legislative, judicial, or state education). Candidates are asked to respond to questions in categories such as: national defense, marriage, life, education, religious liberty, immigration, healthcare, Israel, and a statement of faith.

In key races, iVoterGuide might also perform independent research and provide links to external sources to supplement the questionnaire. This method is used most often when the candidate has failed to answer the questionnaire.

The process iVoterGuide uses to reach every candidate is also important. After the questionnaire invitation has been extended, iVoterGuide follows up with emails, phone calls, and through social media to encourage candidates to complete the questionnaire and to remind them of deadlines.

Finally, unlike other voter guides, iVoterGuide gives candidates the opportunity to preview the voter guide before it is published. They are able to see what the public will see and have the chance to report any erroneous data.

Why are candidate questionnaires important?

Questionnaires give candidates the opportunity to tell you who they are and what they stand for in their own words. iVoterGuide publishes the answers verbatim. Unlike debates, each candidate is given the opportunity to answer every question and has ample time to think through every answer.

iVoterGuide also carefully crafts our questionnaire so that candidates are asked to answer open-ended questions as well as agree/disagree questions. By nature, open-ended questions let the candidate give specific details as well as clarify any nuances they may see in other types of questions.

In the event that a candidate does not answer the questionnaire, iVoterGuide’s annotations are also crucial. We cite sources and use their exact words to give you information about where candidates stand.

Judicial candidates are given a judicial philosophy questionnaire rather than an issues questionnaire because they are prevented by law from answering certain political questions.  The unique questionnaire developed by iVoterGuide gives judicial candidates an opportunity to express the foundation of their beliefs without making statements on how they would rule on specific cases.

Candidates are evaluated on a scale from verified conservative to verified liberal, and also far right and far left, based upon the level of confidence that a panel has on whether the candidate will vote conservatively or liberally.  Ratings of far right and far left are reserved for candidates on the extremes of the evaluation spectrum.

    • Verified Conservative – At least 95% confident the candidate will vote conservatively
    • Conservative – 85-94% confident the candidate will vote conservatively
    • Conservative (Conditional) - 85-94% confident the candidate will vote conservatively, but without sufficient data points to warrant a full conservative evaluation
    • Leans Conservative – 70-84% confident the candidate will vote conservatively
    • Moderate – Less than 70% confident the candidate will vote either conservatively or liberally. Candidates fall into this category if there is not convincing evidence to classify them as either conservative or liberal
    • Leans Liberal – 70-84% confident the candidate will vote liberally
    • Liberal – 85-94% confident the candidate will vote liberally
    • Liberal (Conditional) – 85-94% confident the candidate will vote liberally, but without sufficient data points to warrant a full liberal evaluation
    • Verified Liberal – At least 95% confident the candidate will vote liberally

Some candidates don't fall into the normal conservative-liberal spectrum.  Those who are on the extremes of the political spectrum may be assigned the rating “Far Left” or “Far Right.”

iVoterGuide defines a Far Left candidate as one who expresses extreme views such as support for infanticide, suppression of free speech and cancellation of Christian or conservative voices, cradle-to-grave welfare, blatantly open borders, etc., and a Far Right candidate as one who strongly advocates for no civil government. Some candidates that the media would define as far right would fall into our Unclassifiable rating. 

A candidate with an “Unclassifiable” rating is one who professes some conservative or liberal views but has posted or published material unacceptable to both liberals and conservatives.

Constitutionally, a judge’s job is to interpret the law, not to legislate or set policy.  Therefore, iVoterGuide’s judicial ratings are based on our assessment of how a candidate will apply the law.  For instance, originalists generally believe they must apply the law exactly as written, whereas activists tend to believe that the interpretation of law can vary over time and according to changes in societal norms.

    • Proven Originalist – The evidence consistently and strongly indicates the candidate believes laws should always be interpreted according to their objective original meaning.
    • Originalist – The evidence consistently indicates the candidate believes laws should always be interpreted according to their objective original meaning.   
    • Originalist (Conditional) – The little evidence available consistently indicates the candidate believes laws should always be interpreted according to their objective original meaning.   
    • Leans Originalist – The evidence overall indicates the candidate believes laws should be interpreted according to their objective original meaning.   
    • Moderate –The evidence does not indicate whether the candidate believes laws can change over time. 
    • Leans Activist –The evidence overall indicates the candidate does not believe laws should always be interpreted according to their objective original meaning. 
    • Activist (Conditional) –The little evidence available suggests the candidate does not believe laws should always be interpreted according to their objective original meaning.   
    • Activist – The evidence indicates the candidate does not believe laws should always be interpreted according to their objective original meaning. 
    • Proven Activist – The evidence strongly indicates the candidate does not believe laws should always be interpreted according to their objective original meaning.

Most candidates are evaluated by teams of trusted, vetted, and trained volunteer panelists who have a commitment to conservative values and a genuine desire to help voters make informed choices when they go to the polls. Panelists must successfully complete a comprehensive leadership questionnaire very similar to the candidate questionnaire. Additionally, they must provide references and sign documents acknowledging they do not have conflicts of interest in the race. We seek panelists in all 50 states. 

Judicial candidates are evaluated by iVoterGuide staff.

Once panelists are approved, they go through training so they understand the significance and relevance of each piece of information our researchers have provided and are able to fairly and accurately evaluate each candidate.

As detailed in the first two questions, the information panelists are provided consists of candidates’ voting records; campaign contributions; endorsements; website and social media information; candidate responses to our questionnaire; and other publicly available, originally sourced information such as press releases and direct quotations. Many panelists then perform additional research and provide input. All information must be attributable, and we pass the additional information directly on to you on the Candidate Profile page.

Once panelists are trained, they are assigned to a panel consisting of 3-5 members. Each panel is assigned a group of 30 – 35 candidates. Each panelist determines the candidate rating they would personally give each candidate based on the data, then they join in an online meeting with fellow panel members to discuss their evaluations and recommend a panel-wide consensus rating for each candidate.

Candidates are evaluated on a scale from verified conservative to verified liberal, and even far right or far left, based upon the level of confidence that a panel has on whether the candidate will vote conservatively or liberally.

Finally, an oversight panel meets to review the evaluations.

The collective group rating as approved by the oversight panel is the evaluation you see on the voter guide.

At iVoterGuide, we believe that every candidate is applying for the most important job he/she will ever have – the opportunity to represent you.

Millions of dollars are spent in the corporate world on the hiring process to find just the right candidate – and often much less is at stake than in the legislative and political arena. We recommend that you evaluate a candidate just like you would a potential employee, and that requires information.

  1. Find out what they’ve done.
  2. Legislative scorecards, judicial records, and donor data are like a candidate’s resume. They let you know what’s important to the candidate as well as his/her experience and history.

  1. Meet them and listen to what they say.
  2. Candidate questionnaires are the closest we can get to allowing you to interview the candidates. We ask the questions we think you would want to ask to get to the heart of their values and stances on important issues.

  1. Check their references.
  2. No matter what is on a resume or how well individuals can represent themselves in an interview, it’s important to get information from those who know an applicant. Endorsements and contributions tell you what others think about the candidate and who is willing to align themselves publicly and invest in them.

iVoterGuide believes a good decision can only be made when you are presented with all of the information available.

We also know that different people have different priorities and process information differently. Some people believe that contributions are the most important data, while others look first to legislative scorecards. Some voters want to see graphs and visual representations while others want to be able to view raw data.

Since every single vote matters, we present information in several ways so that every voter can get what he or she needs to vote wisely.

Yes.  iVoterGuide looks at much more information than the questionnaire alone.  We research contributions to and from candidates, endorsements, voting and judicial records (where applicable), and thoroughly investigate candidates’ websites and social media accounts.  If we are not able to find enough information to evaluate a candidate with confidence, they receive an “Insufficient Information” rating.

Do you have more questions about iVoterGuide? See our Frequently Asked Questions!