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Electing the House of Representatives – visualizations and data 1840-2016

Electing the House of Representatives, 1840-2016: “This project aims to recapture the role of Congress as an equal branch in governing, worthy of studying side-by-side with the Presidency, by offering comprehensive and fine-grained data on the history of Congressional elections. To understand the most momentous periods of reform in American political history, we must give attention to all branches of government. Indeed, landslide presidential wins have often failed to produce a raft of policy victories — as in 2009-10. Public approval and the president’s political capital can very often peter out — as in 1967-68 or 1987-88, and we understand why by considering Congress at the same time. Only when Congressional majorities match the Presidency do we see sweeping legislative reforms — as in the New Deal 1933-34 and the Great Society agenda in 1965-66. Even then, there is no guarantee of dramatic political change, as in 1921-22. The internal dynamics of Congress, such as the committee systems, the legislative rules of each chamber, and the ideologies and personalities of individual lawmakers, also factor into political and legislative change.

The Congress, and especially the House of Representatives, has often been portrayed as the more representative branch of government. It more directly and frequently reflects the changing demographics and changing will of American voters through its biennial elections. The fine-grained geography of Congressional districts, especially in the House, also allows us to see the waxing and waning of democratic ideals within the long arc of expanding voting rights over time by emphasizing the building block of representative democracy — elections.

With these visualizations and the data resources we provide, users can track their own district’s history, can explore regional and national patterns, or can download the raw data, including roll call votes, for their own research. See the transformation of party systems and their ideologies, track the career of individual legislators, and watch the expansion of Congress with the American nation..”

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