Austin Bergan

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Schraufnagel, Scot D.

Degree Name

B.A. (Bachelor of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Political Science


In a time when high partisanship in Washington D.C. stymies the flow of legislative productivity, I seek to determine the success of President Obama and the 111th Congress in addressing "controversial" policy topics. President Obama entered office with a wide range of goals, and also pledged to implement a "post-partisan" style of politics. Using policy topics from the Congressional Digest, a publication that has provided nonpartisan policy coverage since 1921, I seek to determine how successful President Obama and the 111th Congress were in crafting new public laws. In order to measure demand for controversial legislation, the number of topics covered by the Digest during Obama's first two years in office, plus the number of topics from the previous four years that had not seen any legislative action, were counted. Statutes at large was, then, consulted to learn of any new laws passed in the 111th Congress that address these controversial topics. Using the Congressional Digest agenda to determine legislative success is distinguished from earlier works that utilize "presidential box scores," which are criticized for failing to check presidential success on meaningful legislative topics. This research on legislative gridlock is especially important during a time when many feel the partisan conflict between the two major parties in Congress has reached a crisis level.


29 pages




Northern Illinois University

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