Update: Check out our real-time presidential candidates missed votes tracker.
The 2016 presidential candidates are under a lot of scrutiny right now, and the five who are sitting senators even more so. Sen. Marco Rubio in particular has been the focus of criticisms that he hasn’t showed up to work, starting in February following a Vocative article and most recently a Washington Post article just last week (both based on our data).
Rubio and fellow candidate Sen. Ted Cruz currently hold the #2 and #3 spots in the Senate for highest percentage of missed votes throughout each senator’s career. (At 11% each, they’re topped only by a senator who suffered a stroke in 2012 and missed a year of service.) But what about the other candidates?
While Running for President
We compared all five candidates who are sitting senators plus former senator Hillary Clinton, who was a senator when she ran for president the first time in 2008 and is now running again. To make it a fair comparison, because not all of the candidates have been serving the same length of time, we looked at only the votes in the last year — the time period when the candidates were running for president. And to compare with Clinton, we looked at her votes during the corresponding time period prior to the 2008 election.
(Click image to enlarge.)
They’ve all missed a lot of votes — well, all except Sen. Rand Paul who is close to the Senate-wide median of 1.1%. Rubio takes the lead here at 26% of votes missed, with Graham (20%) and Cruz (20%) not far behind. Sanders, who is still considered a long-shot, missed 11% of votes. They were all eligible to vote in 379 votes. Clinton missed 13% of votes in the corresponding one-year time period that, like today, was 378 days ahead of the 2008 election.
As you’ll see next, our sitting president missed even more votes than the current candidates when he ran for office.
2016 won’t be the first election when presidential candidates took a rain check on their day jobs. We looked at some of the 2008 candidates during the same one-year time period that, like today, was 378 days ahead of the election. Back then, it was Sen. John McCain (51%) and Sen. Barack Obama (29%) who lead the absenteeism, and it seems like it paid off because they were the candidates who won their party’s nomination. Clinton, who lost the Democratic nomination to Obama, was a little further behind at the 13% mentioned above.
(Click image to enlarge.)
The median percent of missed votes across both chambers of Congress was about 2% at the time. The representatives were eligible to vote in 1,009 votes during this time (982 for Bachman because she took office in 2007) and the senators 396 votes.
Joe Biden, a senator at the time, also ran in 2008, and missed 34% of votes during this time period. He became Obama’s running mate, and then vice president, and he was considered a likely candidate for the 2016 election, but he recently announced he had declined to run.
Prior to Running for President
What about the candidates’ voting records prior to their run for president? We compared the candidates also by looking at the year before the year that we looked at above. That’s votes in 2014 for the current candidates and votes in 2006 for the 2008 election candidates. Here’s how they fared then:
As you can see, they missed far fewer votes prior to running for office. Graham, Rubio, and Cruz all missed around 9.5% of votes during this time. Paul at 3.5% and Sanders at 2.6% were close to the median across all senators during this time of 2.2%. Clinton, during the corresponding time period prior to the 2008 election, missed 1.4% of votes, which was right on the median for senators during that time. Similarly for Obama (0.8%). McCain missed 9.6%. Biden, again not shown, missed 10.5% of votes.
(The current candidates were eligible to vote in 342 votes during this time. The 2008 candidates were eligible to vote in 363 votes during their time period.)
You might be tempted to ask, Which party is worse? While one party leads in both elections shown here, we’re sure that if we looked backwards in history a little further we’d find that both parties are equally bad at running for office and serving as a Member of Congress at the same time. (That is, two elections is not a large enough sample to say whether one party is worse than the other.)
(We didn’t look at the 2012 election because it was a bit different. With Obama running for reelection, there were no other Democratic candidates. And there were only a few Republican candidates that were sitting Members of Congress at the time. The eventual nominee, Mitt Romney, was not one of them.)
UPDATES: In the last paragraph I corrected the year of the last election to 2012 — of course not 2010. Ooops. On Oct. 28 I added a section about the candidates’ votes prior to their run for office.