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Tracking historical trends in Congress

Political scientists and information technology leaders at the university have developed a powerful new database that tracks historical trends in Congress.

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Political scientists and information technology leaders at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a powerful new database that allows journalists, scholars, lobbyists and government watchdogs to track, analyze and understand historical trends in Congress.

The Policy Agendas Project is especially relevant as a new Congress prepares to take office and people try to make sense of lawmakers’ shifting focus over time, the differences between Republican and Democratic priorities and whether wave elections correlate with policy changes in Washington.

With the database, users can easily track and compare the issues that presidents and members of Congress have taken up since 1947 and assess how those actions reflected the mood of the country. The users can sift through dozens of issues and sub-issues — health care, the environment, taxes — to look at the topics that 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.

Government Professor Bryan Jones developed the database with the Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services team.