Direct interactions with elected officials have more influence on their decisions than other methods of communication
In three surveys of congressional staff over a 10-year span, 99 percent (2004), 97 percent (2010), and 94 percent (2015) said that “in-person visits from constituents” would have “some” or “a lot” of influence on an undecided lawmaker.
Congress places a high value on groups and citizens who have built relationships with the legislator and staff.
In an era where mass email campaigns are easier and less expensive to conduct, congressional staff report they place a higher value on those constituents and organizations that engage in repeated, more interactive, and substantive communications and meetings. When asked what advocacy groups should do more of to build relationships with the office, 79 percent of staff surveyed said “meet or get to know the Legislative Assistant with jurisdiction over their issue area” and 62 percent said “meet or get to know the District/State Director.”
Citizen advocates are more influential and contribute to better public policy when they provide personalized and local information to Congress.
Nine out of ten (91 percent) congressional staffers surveyed said it would be helpful to have “information about the impact the bill/issue would have on the district or state.” However, only nine percent report they receive that information frequently. Similarly, 79 percent said a personal story from a constituent related to the bill or issue would be helpful, but only 18 percent report they receive it frequently.
Citizens have significant potential to enhance their advocacy skills and influence Congress.
CMF discovered a significant gap between typical constituents compared to those citizens who studied advocacy techniques and practiced what they had learned.
If your government is open, it gives you access to 1) participate in improving the way it works, and 2) the information it creates and collects. Broadening access makes your government more accountable, efficient, and trusted, and even helps to improve the economy. – basics.open4m.org
GovTrack.us is here to help you track legislation being debated in the United States Congress. Once on the site, all you need to do is enter your address to find your representatives and senators to get alerts. You can also find legislation that affects you.
The Bill of Rights Institute works to engage, educate, and empower individuals with a passion for the freedom and opportunity that exist in a free society. The link provided goes directly to resources where you can find the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights, and so much more.
The Khan Academy has put together a video playlist about how the government works in the United States. Topics include the electoral college, primaries and caucuses, social security, SOPA and PIPA, histories political parties, and more.
iCivics.org has resources for both teachers and students about how government works by having them experience it directly. Through our games, the player steps into any role – a judge, a member of Congress, a community activist fighting for local change, even the President of the United States – and does the job they do.