Correspondence Coding

During the Spring, 2016 semester, students in PSC 3493, “Politics, Policy, and the Constitution” collected the data visualized below by coding constituent correspondence sent to the office of Congressman Jones in response to the budget debates in 1981. 

The correspondence that students coded were selected from the legislative series of the James R. Jones collection at the Carl Albert Center Congressional Archives. The letters are written in support of either the Jones budget or the Reagan budget received by Jones' office between March and April 1981. They come from the James R. Jones Collection, Legislative, Box 102, Folders 21-22 and Box 103 Folders 1-3, 11-14. 

Students in the course designed the online forms they used to collect these data. All told, the eight students collected data points from 669 documents.

Students coding documents from the James R. Jones Collection in the Carl Albert Center Congressional Archives' Reading Room

Visualized Data

The visualizations below highlight some of the key findings revealed by the data students collected. The charts and maps were created using Google productivity applications using data that had been corrected using the Open Refine platform.

Download the Refined Data

Shifts in Opinion Over Time

As Jones and others have noted, the attempted assassination of President Reagan on March 30, 1981 played a significant role in shaping the political dynamics surrounding the budget. The interactive chart below highlights how the opinions expressed by constituents shifted in Reagan’s favor after the assassination attempt. Also, note the rise in negative opinions about the Jones budget.

Geocoding the Correspondence

Of the 669 rows of data collected by the students, 572 contained identifiable geographic locations. Geocoding these latter points underscores the diverse set of opinions expressed about the federal budget in letters sent to the Jones’ office from residents of his district, let alone other locations in the United States. Click on the pins in the interactive map below to learn more about each data point.

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