How effective are House members? Two political scientists aim to put a number on it

Posted at 6:24 PM, Oct 14, 2014

Want to know how effective your representative is? It all comes down to the LES – Legislative Effectiveness Score – according to two professors who just launched

The website lets you look up your representatives by state, ZIP code or name. You’ll find three measurements for each member of the U.S. House: LES, Benchmark and Party Rank.

Now, truth is, this gets a bit complicated – but it’s the LES that you’ll want to focus on. It shows how successful a member has been in moving his or her bills through the legislative process.

The average LES is 1.0, so Speaker John Boehner’s 0.431 and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s 0.213 are pretty low. There are some high scores, however: Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska., at 4.130, is one example. Think of the LES like an SAT score for members of the House.

Craig Volden, professor of public policy and politics at the University of Virginia, says he and Alan Wiseman, associate professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University, created the site to fill a void.

“There has been so much work on how liberal or conservative a representative is and how polarized Congress is but little or nothing on how effective Congress is,” Volden says. “We need to know how Congress works and despite the fact that Congress is polarized, effectiveness matters for what policies we have.”

The site has scores for members of the House beginning with the 93rd Congress in 1973 to 1974 up through the 112th Congress. The 113th Congress will be added as soon as the current session ends.