You are here

Prof. John Wilkerson in The Washington Post Magazine, "Can big data predict which bills will pass Congress?"

Submitted by Stephen Dunne on February 8, 2018 - 4:07pm

What are the chances of getting a bill pass through Congress? Well, typically in a two year term, about 11,000 bills were introduced but the highest record for the number of bills that pass through is 106. Many companies and organizations are trying to predict the process of bills being passed. In 2013, Tim Hwang and his friends founded a software company called FiscalNote. It uses data from various government websites and predict the chance of each of those bills passing. Instead of relying on human prediction, its self-learning artificial intelligence looks for certain keywords, information about the bill’s sponsors and legislators’ voting records and predicts the likelihood of the bill being pass.

John Wilkerson, a UW political science professor was unconvinced on the effectiveness of the software. He claimed that correlations in the past data does not necessarily provide important insights into why some bills passed or some failed. Also, there are abundant of ways policies can sneak into bills and although some of those bills died, but some of the policies becomes laws at the end.
 “Trying to predict whether an individual bill passes is kind of missing the point,” he says. “Because what you’re really interested in is a policy idea, and whether that policy idea moves forward. ... There’s lots of examples of bills that die, but the proposal that the bill contains ultimately becomes law anyway.”

For the full article, please click here.