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Understanding the United States Congress through Data Visualization, Network Analysis, and Topic Modeling



Regardless of how it may seem at times, the President of the United States is not in charge of all the major decisions made by the government. The laws that we must adhere to are made, formed, and passed by Congress which is composed of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Since 2017, members of Congress proposed over 9000 bills of which 100 became law but mainstream media only covers a small proportion of these bills. Even though this information about the legislative process is available online, the method of presentation and the sheer quantity of information is overwhelming. The current state of affairs makes it difficult for an individual to keep track of the activities and affiliations of their representative and senators, let alone understand the movements and trends in Congress as a whole. Here I approach an automated method of data collection, analysis, and visualization to mitigate this problem and make transparent the activities of members of Congress. By creating metrics of productivity and partisanship for each member along with analysis of Congress member networks, I identify specific techniques of quantifying individual and collaborative efforts of Congress members. Moreover, topic modeling of bill names and summaries allows for a compression of text content in bills and creation of networks between legislative topics and Congress members. With this analysis, I hope to make the legislative process in the United States more accessible to everyone.

Kiran Bhattacharyya

Biomedical Engineering

April, 2018

DOI: 10.21985/N27962