Welcome to Connect 2 Congress. Please bear in mind that the site is still under heavy development and is provided at this point as a usable prototype. Connect 2 Congress is an ongoing research project and may change at any time without notice.
The most critical watchdog mechanism on democracy in the 21st century is the dispersal of information among the general population. Citizens have unprecedented access to vast amounts of data regarding numerous governmental processes. All democracies rely on an educated electorate. In representative democracies, such as the United States (US), citizens would be unable to make informed voting decisions without information regarding the actions of their representatives.
The 110th Congress refers to the set of representatives who served during 2007 and 2008. The 110th Congress saw 14,039 bills, 6,886 amendments, and 2,533 votes. Given the magnitude and complexity of the roll call voting data, citizens need assistance in order to keep informed on their representatives’ voting record. It is labor intensive to discover how a representative voted on a single piece of legislation, let alone on a categorical issue, such as taxes or healthcare. Performing high-level analyses of voting patterns is a challenging and resource-intensive task typically undertaken only by investigative reporters.
Connect 2 Congress (C2C) is a novel visualization system which is designed to reduce the level of complexity and time required to discover and comprehend congressional voting patterns. Connect 2 Congress serves as a primary source of Poole-Rosenthal scores (http://voteview.ucsd.edu/w-nominate.htm) and other legislative behavioral statistics.
You can learn more about our mathematical analysis, learn how to use Connect 2 Congress, or try Connect 2 Congress now!
We are aware of a few bugs that currently exist in Connect 2 Congress. One of these is evidenced by Senator Tim Johnson's behavior in our system circa January 2007. Senator Johnson suffered a stroke and was in the hospital, yet his circle remains visible and in a location, implying a certain set of behavior. In reality, his circle's position is simply a remnant from an earlier view. Circles which do not move indicate that that the individual exhibited no behavior (or did not vote) during the selected time period. We are working to resolve this problem.
Our data set is imperfect. As an example, all Representatives from Alabama are missing. Some others are as well. Please remember that Connect 2 Congress is currently a proof of concept. We are performing on-going revisions and hope to resolve most of these issues. If you spot another data issue, please send information about it to info[at]connect2congress[dot]com.
The House of Representatives
Most of the calculations should be complete by now for the House of Representatives. There may still be some period selections for which the House does not move. Check back soon for updates. All of these should be up and running very very soon.
About the Author
Peter Kinnaird is currently a Masters in Human Computer Interaction student at Georgia Tech. He will be starting a PhD in Human Computer Interaction at Carnegie Mellon University in August. For more information about Peter, see his web page. For questions or requests regarding Connect 2 Congress, please send e-mail to info[at]connect2congress.com.
It's important for users to understand what our scatter plots are showing. The horizontal and vertical positions of the circles on the plots are completely independent.
We developed an original approach for statistical analysis of bill sponsorship and cosponsorship. Most bills have a single sponsor attached to them. This sponsor is generally the person who authored the bill. Bills can have many cosponsors who join later.
For each bill, we compute a representative’s leadership on the following basis:
- Sponsors receive 1 point.
- Each cosponsor receives a fraction of 1 point,
depending on how far along the bill was in the process when they joined as a cosponsor.
For cosponsors, we look at the entire duration that the bill had any updates or actions taken on it and we assign points accordingly. Actions include voting on a bill, referring a bill to a committee, and joining a bill as a cosponsor. For example, if the period between a bill’s introduction and the last action taken on it is 30 days and a representative joins as a cosponsor after 10 days, the representative receives 0.333 points.
To compute a person’s position for a selected period we take the average of the representative’s scores for all bills the person sponsored or cosponsored during the given period. Therefore, sponsoring or cosponsoring numerous bills yields a high score, placing the representative near the top of the spectrum. Those representatives who sponsor and cosponsor bills infrequently, or take a long time to cosponsor bills appear lower on the spectrum. The result is a value between 0 and 1 for each unique pair of dates on which voting took place for each representative. We scale these values to the height of the spectrum.
One bias we acknowledge is that the presentation of this analysis as “Leaders” and “Followers” imposes a value judgment on the data. We label the axis with “Leaders” and “Followers” for simplicity.
We calculated Poole-Rosenthal scores using a program provided by Keith T. Poole called W-NOMINATE (http://voteview.ucsd.edu/w-nominate.htm). For each unique pair of selectable dates we run WNOMINATE on all roll call votes cast during that period. We used Poole-Rosenthal scores for the horizontal positions of representatives.