calculating courage score


Courage Scores grade California state legislators on their political courage, revealing how well they stand up for their constituents over corporate lobbyists that exploit Californians, particularly the poor, disadvantaged, or communities of color.

Now in its fourth year, Courage Score is designed to allow Californians to quickly and seamlessly learn about and engage with their state legislators. Simply search for a legislator by address or name, and users will see the voting record of their legislator based on bills that were a high priority for progressive organizations around the state. Learn more about our methodology below, and take a look at the bills that determined each year’s Courage Score here. You can also view the video overview of Courage Score here.

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, avoiding bills that passed by overwhelming margins and therefore required less political courage. 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 consider any excused legislative absences. Multiple votes were included for some bills if each vote was deemed crucial to the bill’s progressive integrity. Additionally, points were docked for authors and coauthors of bills that were widely opposed by progressive groups and for leadership decisions that leveraged procedural tools to block progressive priorities.

Lifetime scores were determined based on the average of all Courage Scores since the scorecard’s inception in 2016 and the number of years each legislator has been in office during that time.

By engaging in this rigorous, multi-faceted process, we believe that provides a reliable way for progressive Californians to quickly and easily assess the political courage of each state legislator. In particular, they will see how consistently each California legislator fights for the best interests of their communities, and against the corporations and interest groups that exploit their constituents.