November 22, 2010 23:10
As a new Congress prepares to take office, a powerful online tool from University of Texas at Austin political scientists can help answer questions about lawmakers’ shifting focus over time, differences between Republican and Democratic priorities and whether wave elections correlate with policy changes in Washington.
The Policy Agendas Project database allows journalists, scholars and interest groups to easily track and compare the issues that presidents and members of Congress have taken up since 1947 and to assess how those actions reflected the mood of the country.
The interface lets users sift through dozens of issues and sub-issues — health care, the environment, taxes — to look at the topics leaders dealt with in congressional hearings, new laws, executive orders and State of the Union addresses, as well as public opinion about problems facing the nation.
The data generated by the project are free and publicly available. They come with software that allows them to be used in classrooms. Jones and his colleagues released earlier versions of the Policy Agendas Project while he was a professor at the University of Washington.
Tip of the Hat to Gary Price at LinkedIn.
Phi Beta Iota: This has some promise, especially if they design it to be scalable across countries and down to the state and local level. However, since nothing is policy until it is in the budget, the real truth tellers will be if they can link this to actual budgetary authorizations, allocations, and obligations; factor in “true costs” of any given policy element; and open it up to fact-based citizen dialog and deliberation.