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How Liberal Was Obama as a State Senator in Illinois?

- October 6, 2008

Boris writes:

Obama [is] one of the more, but not the most, liberal Senators (just slightly to the left of Senator Clinton). . . . But what about Obama’s service in the Illinois General Assembly representing Hyde Park? How liberal was he then? So far, it’s been quite difficult to tell. Of course, both sides of the political debate have strong incentives to spin his record; the Democrats want to portray him as more centrist, the Republicans more liberal. . . .

So what’s the truth? The answer: Obama as an Illinois state senator was very liberal, but there were others substantially more liberal still. Of all 295 incumbents who served from 1996-2004 in Illinois, State Senator Obama ranked in the 14th percentile on my liberalism scale. In the Democratic party, he ranked in the 27th percentile. Comparing Obama to all incumbent state legislators in the United States in the mid 1990s to the mid 2000’s, he was in the top 11th percentile.