The Fix today has a post about the newly released digital version of Vital Statistics on Congress, a partnership between between a few think tanks that contains reams of enlightening data about the institution.
Among the more interesting examples is a table showing the partisan polarization over the years. Chris Cillizza’s take:
There is, really, only one thing you need to understand if you want to see why Congress doesn’t do much of anything these days. And that one thing is this: We are living in a time of historic polarization between the two parties.
It’s clear from the chart in the report that the parties are as far apart as they’ve been in the modern era:
Time is winding down on another year of congressional business. How much time have representatives and senators worked this year compared to the past?
Senators, on average, were in session about 155 days a year over the last three decades. This year: 169. Representatives worked less: about 138 days, on average, over that time. This year (as of Dec. 20): 170.
To be sure, governing America is different than the average American job. But how much might they have been expected to work compared to the rest of us? Some context:
There are 365 days per year and about 104 weekend days. This is 260 days. If you subtract the 10 legal bank holidays taken this would be about 250 business days a year.
This chart, created from Library of Congress records, shows how many days each chamber was in session over the last three decades. The Senate’s top year was 1995, after Republicans took over the House in the “Contract with America” sweep (209 days). The House’s top year was 1979 (173 days):
View larger version | Download data
I just discovered the promising Clear Congress Project today, which visualizes legislative data by political party and other other variables in real time. A mission statement from the developer:
With the expansion of the Internet and computing technologies, the amount of data generated and recorded has increased exponentially. Recently, government initiatives, non-profits, and news organizations have created easily accessible sources for the large amount of data created pertaining to government institutions. However, government organizations too often mistake access for transparency and news organizations have been reluctant to adopt innovative news delivery formats better designed for their new role as producers and distributors of not just stories but also data. Clear Congress Project (CCP) leverages real-time data sources and information visualization techniques to serve as a model that realizes transparency as a process beyond data access and offers a new format for news distribution.
(via Chip Oglesby)
An interactive map from work:
This map visualizes the number of years officials have served in the U.S. House of Representatives, with darker shades representing longer seniority. Toggle the map below to see the members’ political affiliations (red=Republicans; blue=Democrats). Read a related story.
Source: U.S. House Clerk | Data: CSV
Republicans today take back control of the U.S. House of Representatives, ending four years with the Democrats in charge. This chart, courtesy of Wikipedia, visualizes partisan control in that chamber since 1855:
Here’s the same period for the U.S. Senate: