In the U.S. Senate Republican primary race, a statistic about Democratic incumbent Joe Donnelly’s voting record has been mentioned repeatedly in debates and on the campaign trail.
The GOP candidates have repeatedly said that Donnelly votes with liberal Democrats (like Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and Bernie Sanders) 85 percent of the time.
Sometimes they also throw in names like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, even though Donnelly can’t actually vote with them because they are not members of Congress.
But that aside, how often does Donnelly agree with his party? Is the 85 percent claim accurate?
It depends how you look at it.
A December 2017 press release from the National Republican Senatorial Committee suggests that stat is true, citing research from a Congressional Quarterly report that shows Donnelly has voted with Schumer 85 percent of the time since 2013.
When asked about that data, NRSC shared updated research with IBJ that shows Donnelly votes with Schumer 84 percent of the time, so it’s dropped just slightly.
But when you compare Donnelly to how often he votes with Sanders, the figure drops to 75 percent. Another CQ report from 2017 shows Donnelly votes to support the Trump agenda 62 percent of the time and he votes with his party 74 percent of the time.
According to FiveThirtyEight’s tracker, which analyzes how often every member of Congress agrees with the president, Donnelly supports Trump 55 percent of the time. Donnelly also votes with Indiana’s Republican Sen. Todd Young 55 percent of the time, according to CQ data shared with IBJ.
U.S. Rep. Luke Messer, one of three Republicans running for Senate, votes in line with Trump nearly 93 percent of the time, and U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, another Senate hopeful, supports the president 90 percent of the time, according to the same FiveThirtyEight database.
To throw even more data into the mix, The Lugar Center released its latest bipartisan scores for members of Congress this week. Donnelly ranked the fourth most bipartisan senator (beaten by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine; Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio; and Sen. Shelley Capito, R-West Virginia).
Young also did well on that list, coming in at number 9.
In U.S. House rankings from The Lugar Center, Messer ranked 137th and Rokita ranked 350th.
So when all the data is considered, the 85 percent claim isn’t technically accurate because the closest statistic to that figure is how often Donnelly votes with Schumer, but even that is actually 84 percent of the time. It's close, but not exact.
Otherwise, it’s less often than 85 percent that he is voting with the party—and he supports Trump more than 15 percent of the time.