The 2019 Congressional Capacity Survey (CCS) will extend and expand on the 2017 Congressional Capacity Survey (see JMU IRB Protocol 18-0030). The 2019 CCS will survey Washington, DC-based congressional staffers to measure their professional backgrounds, career paths, policy views, technical knowledge, substantive expertise, and job experiences. By “congressional capacity,” we mean the resources that Congress allocates to itself to perform its role in resolving public problems through legislating, budgeting, holding hearings, and conducting oversight. Our focus is on the human beings who do the daily work of Congress – staff who work for members of Congress – and on the procedures and organizational structures that allow them to do their work in the most effective and democratically responsive ways.
We are motivated by prior research using publicly available payroll records that shows the capacity of the United States Congress has declined considerably since the late 1970s (Crosson et al n.d.). This project will more deeply explore the causes and consequences of the decline by observing staffers’ perceptions, behaviors, and political ideologies and identities on a more granular level. The data will contribute to a broader effort among political scientists to learn about legislative dysfunction and to develop recommendations to improve Congress’s capacity.