I've seen claims that during the 116th congress, Senator Kamala Harris voted with Trump's position more than two percentage points less often (11.1% compared to 13.6%) than Senator Bernie Sanders, who is often considered to be one of the most liberal Senators. Is this statement correct?

  • 4
    What is the exact source of this picture? Aug 14, 2020 at 19:02
  • 1
    It looks like it is from projects.fivethirtyeight.com/congress-trump-score. It says 13.6% for Sanders and 11.1% for Harris in this congress. Aug 15, 2020 at 0:57
  • Do note that without knowing the precise bills that a member voted for, it is extremely difficult to quantify their ideology from such a small difference. For instance, it could be the case (hypothetically) that Harris voted with Trump on a few high-profile bills because she actually agrees with the conservative position on those (i.e. as a matter of principle), but voted against him on a few procedural bills for political reasons (e.g. to express rejection of his political project). It wouldn't even need to be the case that Harris were very different from Bernie in this respect, either...
    – Obie 2.0
    Aug 15, 2020 at 3:08
  • ...just slightly more prone to it. And neither would necessarily be particularly inclined to such a position overall: i.e., both would largely vote against Trump. Of course, this is not necessarily the case at all, but it does show the risks in making a conclusion here.
    – Obie 2.0
    Aug 15, 2020 at 3:09
  • I'm unclear how this got closed without telling the poster how he can alter the question to make it suitable. The approach given, in comments above could also be supported with voting record data from the American Conservative Union as a rough proxy for Trump's "position", looking at 2019 data, B. Sanders and Kamala Harris are neck and neck, both getting a conservative rating of 9 out of 100. acuratings.conservative.org/acu-federal-legislative-ratings/… Aug 16, 2020 at 0:38

3 Answers 3


538 actually has whole analysis devoted to this, showing both how often a member votes in line with Trump's position and comparing that to Trump's vote share in their district.

According to their analysis, Kamala Harris votes in line with Trump's position 16.2% of the time, which is slightly higher than Bernie Sanders 14.2%.

538 - the Senators with the Lowest Trump Scores

In the Senate, Kristin Gillibrand has the lowest percentage with 12.2%. The highest Trump score is a tie between Kelly Loeffler and Jeff Sessions with 100% from their time in office. Of Senators who were in office for Trump's whole term, there's a 3-way tie between John Cornyn (R-TX), John Hoeven (R-ND) and Pat Roberts (R-KS) with 95.1%

  • What about Kweisi Mfume of Maryland? Aug 15, 2020 at 1:03
  • 2
    @NumberFile They’re in the House. I limited my commentary to Senators. Apparently it’s easier to be a total partisan in the House (there are lots more 100% and 0% scores there). I wonder if there’s something about the House, or simply the smaller voter base, or if it’s just the larger number of representatives
    – divibisan
    Aug 15, 2020 at 1:23

Expanding on divibisan's identification of the source of the data which motivated this question, the percentages in the original post are correct when limited to votes in the 116th Congress.

Of the 39 measures that FiveThirtyEight lists, Sanders has voted on 22, and voted for Trump's position three times, giving him a score of 13.6%. Harris has voted on 27, and voted for Trump's position on the same three occasions, giving a score of 11.1%.

Below is a graph illustrating how each Senator's 'Trump Score' has changed over time. We can see both of their scores shoot up in early February '19, as they both opposed a measure to disapprove of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan and Syria. This then declines over time, and we see a long flat period for both between July '19 and January '20. During this period, Harris was present for two of the votes on the measures recorded by FiveThirtyEight, so her score decreases.

The spike at the end of the graph, in March '20, relates to the two measures on coronavirus assistance, both of which were supported by both Senators. First, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, and secondly, the CARES Act.

This somewhat illustrates how this sort of statistic can be misleading - both Sanders and Harris have voted with Trump's position the same number of times, on exactly the same measures - but as Sanders was absent for some votes, he is deemed to have a higher 'Trump Score'.

enter image description here


Without knowing the source of your image or how the numbers were compiled, it's impossible to say, exactly.

However, do note that GovTrack does rate Harris as the most "liberal" Senator in 2019:

most conservative
#1  1.00    Sen. Marsha Blackburn [R-TN]
#2  0.96    Sen. Joni Ernst [R-IA]
#3  0.91    Sen. Mike Braun [R-IN]
#4  0.91    Sen. Ted Cruz [R-TX]
#94     0.10    Sen. Edward “Ed” Markey [D-MA]
#95     0.09    Sen. Mazie Hirono [D-HI]
#96     0.07    Sen. Cory Booker [D-NJ]
#97     0.07    Sen. Jeff Merkley [D-OR]
#98     0.03    Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand [D-NY]
#99     0.02    Sen. Bernard “Bernie” Sanders [I-VT]
#100    0.00    Sen. Kamala Harris [D-CA]

Note that Harris is "0.02" units "more liberal" than Sanders, which seems consistent with the data from your image.

  • 4
    But without knowing how that source defines "liberal", we can't say whether it correlates well to voting with Trump. After all, Trump advocates some things, such as economic protectionism, that are more liberal than conservative.
    – jamesqf
    Aug 14, 2020 at 17:46

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .