calculating courage score
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What is a Courage Score?

Courage Scores grade legislators on how well they stand up for constituents over corporations or special interest groups that seek to exploit Californians, particularly the poor, disadvantaged, or communities of color.

Full Methodology

  • A+ (100)
  • A   (90-99)
  • B   (80-89)
  • C   (70-79)
  • D  (60-69)
  • F   (0-59)

To develop Courage Scores, we reached out to major progressive advocacy groups throughout California and surveyed them to learn their top priority bills from the previous legislative session. We synthesized their responses into a comprehensive list of priority legislation covering health care, the environment, immigration, consumer protections and more.

Then, we began reviewing legislators’ votes on these bills. Because bills can change dramatically as they pass through the legislative process, we opted to score votes differently based on circumstances specific to each bill. For example, voting ‘yes’ on a bill after it has been weakened substantially, or after a bill has safely passed is not as impactful as championing it when the stakes are higher. To ensure accuracy, we communicated with allies and Capitol staffers, and conducted our own painstaking investigation to learn which votes were the most critical.

We focused our analysis on close votes, looking only at bills that passed with <60% approval or failed passage altogether. We gave ‘abstentions’ the same weight as ‘no’ votes, since both have a similar impact on a bill’s passage. We also reached out to legislators to ensure we didn’t miss any excused legislative absences. Multiple votes were included for some bills if each vote was deemed crucial to the bill’s progressive integrity.

The underlying methodology of the Courage Score is that: by examining legislator behavior on key progressive bills, and by isolating that behavior to look only at votes cast in critical, tide-turning moments, we are able to see which California legislators stand with corporate lobbyists, and which stand with their communities.


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