How do we determine legislator effectiveness? An interview with Craig Volden and Alan Wiseman

February 5, 2024  

  • Congressional Reform
  • Blog

In a thought-provoking 2021 conversation with Sunwater Institute founder, Matt Chervenak, Craig Volden and Alan Wiseman with the Center for Effective Lawmaking discuss their studies around individual lawmaker effectiveness. In their discussion, Volden and Wiseman share their background as well as insight into the connection between politics and public policy.   


The Center for Effective Lawmaking, introduced by Craig Volden and Alan Wiseman, represents a significant stride in the field of political science, particularly concerning the analysis of legislative effectiveness in the U.S. Congress. The project, built upon the foundations laid in their earlier book and their development of legislative effectiveness scores, aims to identify, and understand the factors that contribute to a lawmaker’s effectiveness in Congress. 

About the Center 

Volden and Wiseman’s approach is distinguished by its comprehensive and systematic methodology. They developed legislative effectiveness scores based on fifteen different metrics, focusing on the bills sponsored by members of Congress and their progression through various stages of the lawmaking process. This approach goes beyond the simplistic measure of how many bills become law, considering factors like bill sponsorship, committee actions, and the significance of the bills themselves, categorized into three levels: commemorative, substantive, and substantive and significant. This nuanced scoring system allows for a more accurate and detailed assessment of a lawmaker’s effectiveness. 

About the Score 

The bulk of legislation is in the middle category, substantive bills. Volden and Wiseman also discuss trends in data they’ve seen with minority party versus majority party legislation introduced, as well as male versus female bill introduction and effectiveness. 

Distribution of Bills

The Legis1 platform, powered by the Sunwater Institute, utilizes the aforementioned legislative effectiveness scores for every member of Congress If you’d like to learn more about how the platform can provide quick easy access to tons of legislative data or you would like to see a demo visit the website: or email