Systemic and institutional agendas can overlap: the case of economics and the 114th Congress

Traditional democratic theory states members of Congress shall respond to the issues to which their constituents are paying attention, which are often local issues. However, Congress is also a national body and has a responsibility for national issues. This establishes a dichotomy that puts a tension on democratic practices and responsibility. One way to measure this tension is to examine if and when Congress focuses on the same issues that the public does. This paper examines this overlap of institutional and systemic agendas using a proof of concept test. The institutional agenda is measured by bill introduction for economic policy topics using the Congressional Bills Project dataset and coded by the Comparative Agendas Project. The systemic, public agenda is measured using internet search data of the nation, specifically Google Trends. These two datasets are correlated across the time period of the 114th Congress. The results suggest that there is a high rate of overlap in the agendas for a majority of economic policy topics.