Staffer Survey: Getting Substantive Things Done in an Election Year

How the midterms affect congressional offices

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted May 18, 2018 at 5:01am

With the primaries already upon us, the midterm election cycle is well underway. We wanted to know how it’s affecting staffers’ lives, both on and off the Hill.

We asked, “Could you describe in your own words how your job changes in an election year?” For some, it gets harder, involving more politics and less substance, less job stability and less time with the member, who is often traveling. For others, it doesn’t change much.

Here’s a sampling of how staffers responded:

  • “You need a bigger shovel and a longer fire hose.”
  • “To the best of my ability, it doesn’t. But leadership wastes a lot of time.”
  • “Less likely for significant legislation to be considered.”
  • “I won’t have a job.”
  • “Spend more time fighting bad ideas from members ‘in cycle’ who try to pass feel good, do nothing bills to make up for their lackluster record.”
  • “Policy staff in DC are less effective in an election year, and are significantly less able to get productive, bipartisan bills passed.”
  • “It changes in the sense that I have fewer days with the member and fewer days to schedule her meetings, so I have to make good use of my time by utilizing every free minute.”
  • “More consensus building and policy accomplishments within the party.”
  • “Working to unite the caucus in one message and oppose the other party; be more aggressive about spreading news to the district.”
  • “It depends upon the outcome of the elections. If the Senate should change control, my position could be at risk.”

Out of the 212 staffers surveyed, only 66 answered this open-ended question. The titles of those surveyed ranged from chief of staff to staff assistants; 53 percent identified as Democrat, 43 percent as Republican and 3 percent as independent.

The majority of respondents said they worked in a House personal office, while others said they worked in Senate personal offices, on committees or in leadership offices.

Responses were collected online from April 17 through April 20.

Watch: What You Need to Know About Voter Registration and Turnout This Midterm Season

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