Tracking Congress and public opinion in the Obama era

New software provides powerful tool for pollsters and the public

President Obama’s campaign proved the power of the internet in organizing grassroots supporters and he is continuing to harness the web in the White House to keep in touch with voters via live chats and re-designed government sites. Now, the public has a new tool to keep tabs on the president and Congress.

Software created with the help of a professor at the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis allows users to track votes in Congress and compare their views with elected officials across the political spectrum.

Lamar Pierce, assistant professor of strategy at Olin, collaborated with former colleagues at Carnegie Mellon to design CS Spectrum™, a proprietary software tool for scientifically mapping members of Congress and web users in real-time based on voting behavior and polling data.

The interactive program is available on the Civic Science website ( and invites users to answer a set of 14 questions to establish where they register on the political spectrum from left to right. Users can see immediately where they stand compared to any member of Congress; track votes on past and pending legislation; and compare views on a wide range of topics with other registered users of the site.

Pierce says Civic Science analyzes huge amounts of data and makes it available as information that citizens can use, “the more information we can provide to individuals about themselves and about their representatives and the political process, the more we can open this black box of what’s going on. Then we can make democracy work better.”

All Members of Congress receive a composite score based on over 130 inputs including their voting record, their positions on key issues, rankings by reputable non-profits, and state-of-the-art psychographic models. As Congress takes official action, scores update in real-time.

“Our goal in developing is to introduce new technologies and new techniques in public opinion research,” says John Anzalone, the Chief Research Officer at Civic Science and the President of Anzalone Liszt Research. In 2008, Anzalone conducted polling for numerous political candidates including President Barack Obama. “The dynamic data we are collecting and analyzing online represents a ground-breaking innovation in the polling industry.”

Civic Science is a Pittsburgh-based software firm that collects and analyzes real-time public opinion and marketing research data over the Internet. In addition to, the company also develops ‘intelligent’ polling widgets and an API, distributed across a network of political, consumer, and non-profit web sites.