In the second half of 2017, the Legislative Branch Capacity Working Group conducted an online survey of congressional staff regarding the legislative branch’s capacity. We distributed questionnaires to all the professionals who work for a member, committee, or party leader in the U.S. House or Senate in Washington, DC.

This survey queried respondents on the backgrounds, career paths, policy views, and job experiences of congressional staffers, as well as the procedures and organizational structures that allow these individuals to do their work in the most effective and democratically responsive ways.

We began distributing the surveys in August 2017, and we closed the survey in November 2017. We sent questionnaires to 8,485 individuals, and received 441 responses. The margin of error at the 95 percent level of confidence is 4.5 percent. The James Madison University Institutional Review Board (IRB) monitored the research project to make sure participants’ identities are kept in strict confidence. (IRB Protocol #18-0030 ) More details on the methodology are here.

Why we undertook the Congressional Capacity Staff Survey

Our nation faces many challenges and public servants play a critical role in addressing those challenges. Your participation in this survey will provide important insight into the personnel and resources that Congress allocates to itself to perform its role in resolving public problems through legislating, budgeting, holding hearings, and conducting oversight. There is simply no better source of information about how to achieve these objectives than our current congressional staffers. Staffers background, experiences, and policy views are essential to helping us understand the current state of congressional capacity and how best to empower the institution and its members to achieve their goals.

The results of the Congressional Capacity Survey

Presently we are analyzing the results, which we will publish in a variety of formats (journal articles, conference papers, op-eds, and a book).

Principal Investigators

Timothy LaPira, Ph.D., James Madison University
Email: lapiratm [at]

Lee Drutman, Ph.D., New America
Email: drutman [at] newamerica [dot] org

Kevin Kosar, Ph.D., R Street
Email: kkosar [at] rstreet [dot] org

Alexander C. Furnas, University of Michigan
Email: zfurnas [at] umich [dot] edu

Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Ph.D., Columbia University
Email: ah3467 [at] Columbia [dot] edu