Senator McCain was Republican candidate for presidency in 2008, so perhaps plenty of Republicans (at least in states with closed primaries) felt that he represented their views.

Is there any actual data to back up just how often he votes for/against his own party?


What is the percentage of times where he voted with Republicans on a bill/issue where there was a clear political divide between the two parties? (my definition of that would be when 80%+ of each party votes on the opposite side of 80% of the second party).

Ideally, I'd like a separate count for actual votes on bills, and one on clear positions taken on issues that did NOT get an official vote count.

  • 1
    You can look up his DW-Nominate score, which measures partisanship in one's voting record, but I'm not sure you'll find a nice quantifiable way to measure stance's he's voiced his opinion on but not ones that he's voted on.
    – Publius
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 3:51
  • It sounds like you are asking "Within the Republican party, where on the ultraconservative-to-centrist spectrum does McCain fall?" Which, while a fine question, is ultimately going to be at least partially opinion based.
    – user1530
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 4:32
  • (46 * 0.8) = 36.8 37R vs (52 * 0.8) = 41.6 42D. So, you want to count the percentage of times when the vote is 37+ Republican vs. 42+ Democrat (yea/nay or visa versa), for example this one wouldn't count because even though McCain voted against party lines there were only 35R votes on one side. How are we to count Not Voting? Do we count it as a nay, recompute the percentage of voting republicans/democrats to figure out 80%, etc. ?
    – user1873
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 12:54
  • 1
    Personally, I would remove the whole RINO context from the question. For one, I think you are using the term incorrectly, "describe Republicans whose political views or actions they consider insufficiently conservative." That is the context I usually hear it in, that the RINOs vote to spend money like crazy (not fiscally conservative), or are pro-abortion (not socially conservative). Keeping the RINO in the question confuses the issue. Do you want how often McCain votes along party lines, or how often he votes conservative causes?
    – user1873
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 13:06
  • 2
    This question could probably be answered pretty easily with a web scraping tool, since the roll call votes for the senate fit a pretty regular format.
    – user1873
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 13:38

2 Answers 2


Probably the best measure of a candidates ideology is the DW NOMINATE score. It takes a wide variety of position measures into account, including both roll calls, party loyalty, and non-vote position papers. If you look at the embedded graph, you will see that there are clusters that pretty well define the politicians involved, but there is a coherence to the various parties.

enter image description here

McCain, in particular, is by just about any measure, a maverick. That said, he isn't alone. In The Measure of a Maverick, Henry Brighouse writes:

Under this definition, John McCain is very definitely a maverick. Indeed, he’s the seventh most mavericky Senator since 1877. However, he isn’t the most mavericky Senator in recent history; that honour goes to Lincoln Chafee, who comes in at number three. Also, McCain-ites who want to embrace this result should note that it is based on the same kind of measures of ideology (DW-Nominate scores) that have been used to show that Barack Obama, contra the National Journal and Republican mythology, is not (for better or worse) the most liberal Senator by a significant stretch.

There are ways of measuring this stuff after all.

McCain's exact scores are as follows:

  1. Rank = 67
  2. First Dimension DW-NOMINATE Joint Scaling
  3. Second Dimension DW-NOMINATE Joint Scaling
  4. Log-Likelihood
  5. Total Choices this Congress
  6. Geometric Mean Probability
  7. Proportion Correctly Classified

112 ARIZONA MCCAIN 0.380 -0.657 -101.64865 387 0.769 0.884

  • 2
    This looks like math. Wait...that's good!
    – user1530
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 17:28
  • It definitely is. +1 for using actual evidence.
    – Publius
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 18:29
  • 1
    Why does your graph say House 2009-2010? Shouldn't that be "Senate" (a rough estimate of the data points shows more than 100)? I was considering while editing the OP to ask how Mavericky is McCain, but I figured the jargon wasn't necessarily. I like how this answer gets to the heart of the issue, but I don't understand the graphs x/y axis measures. They appear to be percentages, but of what? The graph says Region/Social issues, but which axis is which (if any).
    – user1873
    Commented Oct 10, 2013 at 1:51

As he's a member of the Republican party, that'd make him a Republican. As far as I know, party members aren't members by a percentage. They're either a party member, or they are not.

As for his voting record, you can look it up here: http://votesmart.org/candidate/key-votes/53270/john-mccain-iii#.UlTZyWRgZgI

But keep in mind that how a person votes doesn't change the definition of their party affiliation. It can certainly change the definition of how partisan they may be. (I supposed it could be argued that is one way one could measure how 'affiliated' a person is with a particular party, but I'd argue it's more a sign of how affiliated a person is with a particular caucus--which, though somewhat party-related--isn't necessarily the same as the party's overall philosophy)

  • 1
    @user1873 yes, it's a silly political insult. There's no such thing as 'party member in name only'. They are either part of the party, or they are not.
    – user1530
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 14:48
  • @user1873 an insult does not make for fact. Are we debating facts or opinions? (I guess both, given this is politics...)
    – user1530
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 15:02
  • I don't disagree with the edit of the question, but that obviously makes this answer much less appropriate, as it's really a different question now.
    – user1530
    Commented Oct 9, 2013 at 21:11

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