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Are Biden and Obama the Most Liberal Senators?

This week, Sarah Palin called Barack Obama and Joseph Biden “the two most liberal members of the Senate”. Is it true? Are the two very most liberal members of the United States Senate Joseph Biden and Barack Obama?

Not by a longshot. We’ve been tracking the legislative activities of the 100 U.S. senators for this session of Congress, and produced a legislative score to reflect their ideological positions within the Senate. From that scorecard, here’s some context for where Obama and Biden stand:

Feingold 81
Leahy 81
Boxer 75
Dodd 75
Kennedy 75
Obama 75
Sanders 75
Cardin 69
Menendez 69
Bingaman 63
Brown 63
Durbin 63
Feinstein 63
Harkin 63
Kerry 63
Lautenberg 63
Whitehouse 63
Akaka 56
Cantwell 56
Clinton 56
Mikulski 56
Schumer 56
Stabenow 56
Wyden 56
Biden 50
Murray 50
Reid 50

The numbers after the names of these senators are percentage scores. So, Russ Feingold and Patrick Leahy, truly the most liberal members of the Senate, each have supported a progressive position 81 percent of the time. That’s hardly a position of ideological purity.

Barack Obama isn’t even that purely liberal. He’s part of a group of five other members of the Senate who have supported progressive legislative priorities just three quarters of the time.

Then there’s Joseph Biden, who has earned a progressive score of just 50 percent. Only half of the time has Biden sided with a liberal perspective in the Senate. The other half of the time, he’s opposed it.

I’d like to know what criteria Sarah Palin used to declare that Barack Obama and Joseph Biden are the “two most liberal members of the Senate”. My suspicion is that Palin doesn’t actually have any criteria at all for that statement. She just made it up, or it was made up for her by some speechwriter.

4 thoughts on “Are Biden and Obama the Most Liberal Senators?”

  1. Handrock says:

    I think that is it interesting that your term for the bent these Senators have is “progressive” . What are they progressing towards in your opinion. By your standards Obamba is “Pretty Darned Progressive” and Biden ranks as “Moderately Progressive” on your lists he ranks 17th which isn’t completely ranked according to score. Biden is above Senator Charles Schumer and Senator Barbara Mikulski. I am really interested in how FAR to the left your point of reference needs to be?

    I would certainly consider Obama with a score only 6 points below Senator Russell Feingold, as being deserving of the Fidel Castro Meritorious service award. But then I am rather tainted in my perspective, being as moderate as I am.

    But then, I am accepting your word on the scores, let’s see what other sources say shall we?

    The National Journal Ranks Obama as an 88 for the year 2007. I would accept their numbers over the IT.

    This from:

    “According to the National Journal (leading source of nonpartisan reporting on the current political environment and emerging policy trends) Obama has the most liberal voting record and Biden has the third most liberal voting record.

    Obama’s score over his three years in the senate is 88. Biden’s lifetime composite score of 77.5”

    That would certainly make them the MOST LIBERAL in my book, but then I can read.

  2. Casey says:


    I’m voting for Obama but I wanted to thank you for providing sources to back up your comment. We need more of this in internet discussions.


  3. Casey says:

    Er, Handrock.

  4. Horatio says:

    But the National Journal certainly is not “nonpartisan reporting”. It’s a Republican publication.

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