Congressional Staff: Help Scholars Understand Your Needs

Photo credit: Kevin R. Kosar

Photo credit: Kevin R. Kosar

Blog post by Profs. Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Matto Mildenberger, and Leah Stokes

How do legislative staffers gather and review information about policy proposals? What resources could help congressional staff create and evaluate legislative proposals to deal with pressing social and economic issues?

We are a team of three academic political scientists based at Columbia University and the University of California, Santa Barbara who are trying to answer these questions through a short, confidential survey of congressional staffers. The survey is being supported with a Congressional Research Grant awarded by the Dirksen Congressional Center, a non-profit, non-partisan research organization.

Our survey, which we anticipate will take around five to seven minutes to complete, asks Congressional staff about different considerations that they have weighed when evaluating public policy. Importantly, the survey is completely confidential. No information will be publicly identified back to staff members who participate. The Institutional Review Boards at Columbia University and the University of California, Santa Barbara have both approved the survey on the condition of this confidentiality.

We understand that many congressional offices have standing policies against taking surveys, but we hope that staffers might make an exception for this project given its academic and confidential nature. Participation in the survey will give academic researchers valuable insights into the legislative process on Capitol Hill, and may yield new conclusions about how to provide better resources to congressional offices.

Senior legislative staff –including Chiefs of Staff and Legislative Directors– should have already received a link in their email to the survey from me (ah3467@columbia.edu) on Wednesday, August 24th.

Interested respondents can also contact us for more information or questions, including requests to participate.

Thank you in advance for considering our request. We know that staffers are exceptionally busy and so we appreciate your time. We look forward to learning more about your work in Congress!

Alexander Hertel-Fernandez is Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. Matto Mildenberger and Leah Stokes are assistant professors of political science at the University of California, Santa Barbara.