Capitol Hill

Citizen engagement in 2017: Is this the start of something historic?

November 29, 2017

The Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) has been a leading researcher in citizen engagement with Congress for decades and in January, after Donald Trump’s inauguration, something rather extraordinary started to happen in the U.S. The Brookings Institution chronicled a rare increase in in citizen-advocacy. Just as the Tea Party movement of 2009 rocked the Congress, the Trump protest movement rose up and exercised its First Amendment rights to petition their government for a “redress of grievances.”

It’s rare to witness this type of “organic” advocacy. The most common practice is “facilitated” advocacy, which is usually prompted by “Action Alerts” issued by nonprofits or associations with which citizens are affiliated. However, the civic activity of January of 2017 was a rare from-the-bottom-up grassroots movement, and Capitol Hill was the target. Congressional offices reported a huge increase in communications volume. During the nomination debate over whether Betsy Devos was to become Secretary of Education, one Senate office saw constituent emails rise from 1,000 (in January 2016) to 46,000 (in January 2017). And one congressional leadership office tracked 1.3 million attempted calls to their main number … in one day.

How does the "engaged citizen" of 2017 stack up to bouts of citizen engagement from the past, and have the efforts been sustainted throughout the year? Click here to read the full report.