Government Bytes


Republican Presidential Primary Contenders‘ Ratings on Taxpayer Issues

by Douglas Kellogg / /

The Iowa and New Hampshire primaries are fast approaching, and from there the Republican primary race will swiftly move on to South Carolina and Florida. 

Although the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) does not endorse Presidential candidates, citizens and media inside and outside of these key battleground states have expressed interest in NTU’s Congressional Rating data for those Republican hopefuls who have served as federal lawmakers. And now their fiscal records are neatly summarized here!

Unlike some groups who look at only a handful of “key votes,” NTU’s Rating assesses the fiscal record of Members of Congress by looking at every single roll call vote affecting taxes, spending, and significant regulation. We then weight each vote from 1 to 100 based on importance (with 1 being a program of little significance, and 100 being something like the recent health care bill or the TARP bailout). Each Member’s roll call votes are then compared against our list, resulting in percentage scores on a scale of 1-100. A 100% score (which has never been achieved in the history of our Rating) would indicate that a Member supported the pro-taxpayer position on every vote. NTU did not start issuing letter grades to better interpret scores until 1992. 


Career Avg. Score

Grade Avg. (Post-1992)

Chamber Avg. Score

Party Avg. Score

Newt Gingrich





Ron Paul





Rick Santorum





Michele Bachmann





***Chart organized by length of service & seniority***

It is important to note the difference between a given candidate’s pro-taxpayer score and the chamber’s and party’s performance - averages of which are provided for each candidate during the years they were in Congress. This is because some Congresses are significantly more pro-taxpayer than others. The 104th Congress is a good example, as the influx of conservative members from the 1994 “Republican Revolution” led to a much more conservative Congress, on average. Thus, the difference between the chamber and party averages and the Member’s average score is instructive as to how a record stacks up against their contemporaries.

Also of note, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul have voting sessions where their scores were calculated based on very few votes. Gingrich’s score from 1995 to 1998 was dependent on a small number of issues, since as Speaker of the House he voted relatively rarely and at his own discretion. Ron Paul’s attendance for votes was lower than average in 1984. Finally, Rick Santorum’s scores include time in both the House and Senate.

NTU has no data on candidates who have not served in Congress, like Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry, and Mitt Romney. Resources and commentaries on their fiscal records over the years can be found via the Cato Institute, Citizens for Limited Taxation in Massachusetts, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, and the Utah Taxpayers Association, among others.

Of course, this snapshot can’t portray the ups and downs of annual scores and grades. To access NTU’s Rating of Congress database click HERE.