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Congress in One Word, on Steroids

December 19, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

The Sunlight Foundation has taken their already amazing Capitol Words website and made it way better. What was once a simple site that did one really cool thing has been radically redesigned so that now you can take that one thing and plug it into an awesome array of tools for visualizing, customizing and comparing all of its data.

By scouring the congressional record for the most commonly spoken words day to day in the Senate and House, the site boils down the daily activities of Congress to just one crucial word. It’s like a congressional reduction – the data that Capitol Words provides gives you the condensed flavor of what Congress is up to.

The new Capitol Words lets you see which words are most frequently used by Congress as a whole, by all the lawmakers from your state as a group, or by individual lawmaker. You can also search for particular words to see when and how often they have been spoken in Congress. One of the funnest features lets you compare the usage of words (e.g., health vs. education) or groups of words (e.g., health + education vs. war + terror).

Also worth checking out is Paul Blumenthal’s excellent post on the Sunlight Foundation blog explaining why some incidental-seeming words, like “provide” and “percent,” dominate the congressional record on certain days. And here’s a word cloud from the site that show the relative usage of the 30 most commonly spoken words of the 110th Congress (on the actual site you can click around for way more information):

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