How much time does Congress spend discussing the issues you care about?

 

Ten months before the election, news outlets are already jammed with political jabber. One way to put it in perspective is to chart the attention Congress has paid to your particular issues over time.

Capitol Words, an online visualization tool created by the nonpartisan, nonprofit Sunlight Foundation, assembles the daily contents of the Congressional Record and stores words and phrases as searchable data. Revamped in mid-December, the site -- which covers more than 15 years -- now allows users to search and index entire phrases. It uses an algorithm to show the relative importance of a word or phrase for a given month or day by dividing how often it's used by the frequency of all terms used that month or day. (Hover your mouse over the data points online to see absolute counts.) The site can also compare the relative importance of two words or phrases. Selected terms reveal interesting -- if not always surprising -- things about lawmakers' current and past priorities.