Building Trust & Effectiveness in Congress
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Online Town Hall Meetings: Exploring Democracy in the 21st Century

Cover of Online Town Hall Mettings ReportThis report summarizes the findings and recommendations from a study of 21 online town hall meetings between Members of Congress and their constituents which were facilitated by the Congressional Management Foundation and our academic research partners.

The report was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and contributions from Harvard's Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation.

Online-Town-Hall-Meetings.pdf 1 Mb

Key Findings:

  • Trust in the Member of Congress increased 14%.
  • Participants were more likely than non-participants to describe the Member of Congress as "accessible," "fair," and "compassionate."
  • When asked whether the participants trusted how the Member of Congress handled the issue discussed ("immigration," not exactly a softball topic), 58% "approved" after the session, compared to 20% before the session.
  • These sessions were more likely than traditional venues to attract people from demographics not traditionally engaged in politics and people frustrated with the political system.
  • 95% of participants agreed that such sessions are "very valuable to our democracy" and that they would be interested in doing similar online sessions for other issues.
  • Participation in the town hall increased citizen engagement in politics. Not only were they more likely to vote and follow elections in the news, they were more likely to try and persuade others to vote.