As Congress was considering its latest effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, we sought to give context to where the opposition within the Republican Party was in the House of Representatives. An earlier version of the bill saw resistance from two wings of the party: the conservative Freedom Caucus, whose opposition was rooted in the belief that it didn’t go far enough in undoing the Affordable Care Act, and moderate Republicans who feared the bill would leave many of their constituents uninsured. A second effort at repealing Obamacare made changes to bring most conservative House members on board, but opposition remained among moderate Republicans. We were able to illustrate these divisions by plotting House members based on their electoral support and the partisan tilt of their districts.
What makes this project innovative?
There was no paucity of coverage around this story, as it was seen as a test of the new administration and whether it could achieve its first major legislative priority. But the push and pull of handicapping whether the effort would succeed often turned on personalities and individuals in Congress. We were able to use data to plot the spectrum of lawmakers and show what electoral consequences might be informing their positions.
What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?
We were able to turn around this project as soon as the votes were in and give readers an analytical take when the news was still fresh. The project drove a good bit of traffic to our site with about two-thirds of visitors coming to the page directly.
Source and methodology
Data for this project came from several sources. The scatterplot data were based on two metrics: House members’ election results, as recorded by the Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives; and PVI, calculated from presidential results by congressional district, compiled by Daily Kos Elections. Freedom Caucus membership and stated opposition to the bill were based on staff reports and public statements. And lawmakers’ ideological positions were plotted using DW-Nominate scores from voteview.com.
Data were mostly compiled in Excel. Votes on the health bill were retrieved using ProPublica’s Congress API. The scatterplots were rendered using D3.