Date of Defense
Date of Graduation
J. Kevin Corder
Our nation looks to Congress to solve problems by producing legislation. Four congressional sessions took place during the eight years of the Obama administration; these were the 111th (2009-2011), 112th (2011-2013), 113th (2013-2015), and 114th (2015-2017). These four congressional sessions were often labeled and stigmatized as some of the least productive sessions in our nation’s history. This raises the questions, what explains legislative productivity? What variables effect it? Were the four sessions that took place during the Obama administration that ineffective? How do these sessions compare to sessions that took place during past presidential administrations? This thesis will examine competing theories on what effects legislative productivity, such as polarization and divided government, and will analyze data and see what variables effected the amount of work accomplished by the four congressional sessions that took place during the Obama administration. This thesis will also examine the average amount of work done by Congress and will compare the Congress’ of the Obama administration to past congressional sessions, going back to the 93rd Congress. Four variables will then be analyzed using IBM SPSS to see what affects the total amount of legislation passed by Congress and enacted into law. These four variables are the total amount of Democrats in each chamber of Congress, whether there is a divided government and/or divided Congress, and the Republican party unity voting as an average in both chambers of Congress. These four variables are being analyzed for specific reasons. The number of Democrats in each chamber is being looked at because it is hypothesized that as the number of democrats go up so will the amount of legislation produced – this is because Democrats tend to be the party of bigger government and more social welfare programs, which takes more legislation to accomplish. Whether there is a divided government and/or Congress is being looked at because when divided, the two different political parties will have different legislative agendas, which would contribute to a decrease in legislative productivity. Finally, the Republican party unity voting as an average in both chambers of Congress will be analyzed because it is hypothesized that when Republicans vote more together on average, they are doing so because their ideology is vastly different than the Democratic party’s – this is polarization. Additionally, when measuring Republican party unity voting, the Democrats party unity voting is also being measure. This is because when Republicans vote in solidarity, logically the Democrats must be doing the same – this can be measured empirically. These four variables will be tested to see which of them correlate strongly with legislative productivity and then will be tested in a linear regression model to see which of the four either drive or slow down legislative productivity.
Hunkins, Zachary, "Analyzing the Legislative Productivity of Congress During the Obama Administration" (2017). Honors Theses. 2910.
Honors Thesis-Open Access