Users report GovTrack makes them more confident about approaching government

This summer GovTrack ran a survey of its users to learn more about the site’s effectiveness. The survey, run in collaboration with mySociety, revealed something pretty interesting:

As peope use GovTrack more, they report GovTrack giving them greater confidence when approaching government.

Here are some of the details.

Who uses GovTrack?

We asked users about themselves. Who are they?

Interested citizens 71%
Students 9%*
Non-profit advocates 7%
Government employees
(except congressional staff)
No response 2%
Journalists 2%
Legislative affairs professionals (for-profit) 2%
Congressional staff 0%**

* The survey was taken during the summer, so the number of students during most of the year is likely underestimated.

** Although <1% of respondents identified as Congressional staff , we know from separate analytics that Congressional staff account for about 3% of site traffic when Congress is in session.

Did you learn something about how Congress works?

We asked users if they learned something about how Congress works during their current session of the site. Responses varied widely by segment. Here it is for selected segments:

Segment Learned something
First-time interested citizens 43%
Returning-user interested citizens 50%
Students 58%
Non-profit advocates 45%


This was disappointing.  One of my primary goals is to teach America about how Congress actually works, and I’m not sure whether 50% indicates if I’m succeeding at that.

Has using made you more confident about approaching government?

We asked users:

Has using made you more confident about approaching public/political individuals and organizations directly for information, to make a complaint or for any other reason?

The results indicate that the more a user uses GovTrack, the more confident they become. First-time users were evenly split between yes (more confident) and no (no difference). But as GovTrack use goes up, so too does the user’s belief that GovTrack has made them more confident.

How regularly do you visit GovTrack? GovTrack has made you more confident N
This is my first visit 51% 322
Less than once a month 59% 112
Between once a month and once a week 70% 126
Between once a week and once a day 73% 112
More than once a day 78% 28

Of course, this was a survey at a single point in time. The results don’t show that repeated use makes one more confident. But the repeat users believe GovTrack had a greater impact on their confidence, and that’s very suggestive.

Respondents could also choose GovTrack made them “less confident” but almost no one did.

Have you achieved what you set out to do on this website today?

We asked users why they came to GovTrack and whether they found what they were looking for:

Why they came Fully achieved their goal Partially achieved their goal N
To find information about my representatives 50% 37% 268
To contact my Member of Congress 44% 36% 107
To find information about a particular issue 48% 40% 356
Other/No reason 39% 31% 184

Overall, 89% of users are partially or fully achieving their goal. That’s great. One category stands out as not well served, though:

We did poorest achieving the goals of those who wanted to contact their Members of Congress. That makes sense since we’ve never focused on that and only offer one method: calling Congress about a bill. We don’t offer any other forms of contacting Congress. Many people are looking for this, but fortunately it was the smallest category of why users were coming to the site (and less than other/no reason).

About the survey

We surveyed a random sample of 1,231 GovTrack users for a one month period beginning on June 19, 2015. Users spent on average 50 seconds on the site before being asked to take part in the survey. Thanks to mySociety for partnering on this. We’ll see more interesting results from mySociety later in the year.