In the last ten years, political candidates have become less and less willing to say where they stand, says Project Vote Smart. The group has been asking candidates nationwide a single question each election cycle — and getting fewer and fewer positive answers:

Are you willing to tell citizens your positions on the issues you will most likely face on their behalf?

“In the 1996-1998 tests, a high of 72 percent of all federal candidates and 38 percent of all state legislative candidates responded ‘yes’ to the question. Since then, the decline has been steady and dramatic. The 2006 statistics are at an all-time low of 48 percent and 26 percent for federal and state legislative candidates respectively. Gubernatorial candidate rates for 2006 are at 43 percent, also an all-time low.”

PVS president Richard Kimball reports that one stated reason is fear of opposition research (followed, presumably, by negative attack ads). “One campaign consultant told us, ‘It’s not our job to educate — it’s our job to win.’ Another said, ‘I advised my candidate not to answer issue questions unless they came with a campaign donation.'”

(Hat tip to Ellen Miller at the Sunlight Foundation.)