CMF has been grading congressional websites since 2001 and issues biannual Congressional Gold Mouse Awards for the best websites on Capitol Hill for each Congress. With the assistance and guidance of faculty from the University of California-Riverside, the Ohio State University, and Northeastern University, CMF staff assessed and graded 618 congressional websites from June to September 2011. Each website was given a numerical score, which was translated into a grade of A through F. Based on the analysis, CMF released the following report:
View the full list of the 112th Congress Gold Mouse Award Winners
- The overall quality of congressional websites has improved between 2009 and 2011. House websites (including Member, committee and leadership office sites) saw some degree of improvement in the past two years while the Senate saw a small decline. Metrics valued by constituents, such as readability, navigation, issues information, and timeliness, all were improved. Though there are fewer award-winning sites in 2011 than in 2009 (those that earned an A in our evaluations), this was due to the increased competition from the overall improvement of websites.
- A significant number of Member websites lack basic educational and transparency features and content valuable to their constituents. Previous CMF research indicates the first location on the Internet a constituent will seek information about a legislator's position on an issue is their website (see "Communicating with Congress: How the Internet Has Changed Citizen Engagement"). Yet, a significant number of Member websites do not offer basic information about their activities, the work of the Congress, or even the legislative process. In CMF's review of Member office websites, researchers found: 40% do not post information on or provide links to bills Members have sponsored or cosponsored in the current session of Congress; 44% do not post information on or provide links to the legislator's voting record; 47% do not post information on or provide links to how a bill becomes a law; and 67% do not provide guidance for communicating with the office (such as where constituents should direct inquiries regarding casework, versus inquiries regarding legislative activity or the legislator's position on issues). In contrast, many congressional committee websites include key information expected by stakeholders. 90% include a hearing archive; 87% include reports and publications by the committee; 85% include a hearing schedule; and 78% include a video webcast feature. However, researchers did identify a significant deficiency: only 16% of congressional committee websites post committee votes by legislators.
- House Members elected in 2010 developed much better websites in their first year in office compared to their Senate counterparts. For the class of 2010, new House Members scored significantly higher in evaluations than new Senators. CMF research shows a majority (61%) of House Freshman websites earned A's or B's, including 13% (or 12 sites) that received A's, whereas no new Senator received a A. Nearly half of all new Senators (46%) received a grade of D or F, compared to 17% of House freshman offices which received similar grades.
- The use of social media tools by congressional offices has risen exponentially, and offices are using them more frequently in 2011 compared to 2009. The proportion of Member websites linking to official Facebook and Twitter pages have almost switched, from a vast majority without links to those pages in 2009 (79% and 82%, respectively), to a vast majority with links to those pages in 2011 (81% and 71%, respectively). Frequency of use has also dramatically increased. In 2009, 14% of Member websites that linked to their Facebook page had updated it in the past month. In 2011, 73% had updated their page in the past week. Committee websites have shown similar, if less impressive growth, with 40% linking to Facebook and 49% to Twitter in 2011, compared to just 10% and 18%, respectively, in 2009.
- Democratic and Republican Member websites are generally similar in quality, although Democratic Members had a higher percentage of award-winning websites (with a grade of A). 64% of Republican websites scored a C or higher, compared to 61% of Democratic sites that did so. 20% of all Democratic websites scored an A, while 12% of Republican websites scored an A.
- House committee websites saw a drastic swing in quality between parties, with Democratic committee sites dropping sharply and Republican committee sites rising sharply. The turnover in the House in the 2010 elections clearly had an impact on committee website management. CMF research shows the percentage of House Democratic committee websites graded A dropped from 43% in 2009 to 10% in 2011, while the percentage graded D or F rose from 0% to 35%. The percentage of House Republican committee websites graded A rose from 19% to 50%, while the percentage graded D or F dropped from 10% to 0%.
Through its analysis, CMF also announced the best websites on Capitol Hill which will receive Platinum Mouse Awards. They are:
- Best Senate Member Website: Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK)
- Best House Member Website: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)
- Best Committee Website: House Education and Workforce Committee (Majority), Rep. John Kline (R-MN), Chair
- Best Leadership Website: House Democratic Leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
This research and awards process was supported through grants from:
American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)
CQ Roll Call
 For more on the methodology, see: 112-gold-mouse-detailed-methodology.pdf 141.54 Kb
 Finding refers to Members sworn-in to office in January 2011.
 Note: When party control switches in the House, the committee staff of the incoming majority has the option of taking over the previous majority committee's website, updating their former minority site, or creating a brand new site.