They started by reaching out to 400 staffers they identified as “knowledgeable institutionalists” from a range of personal, committee, leadership and support offices across the Capitol complex and in districts. Of the 128 who responded and answered the demographic questions, 82 percent were white, and nearly three-quarters hailed from the House side. The respondents were split nearly equally between men and women, and 46 percent worked in Democratic offices, 39 percent worked in Republican offices and 15 percent were nonpartisan.

Fitch said his group plans to produce an annual version of this report around when the president delivers their State of the Union address beginning in 2024 in hopes of tracking whether Congress becomes a more functional institution. 

He has an interest in seeing progress, since his group aims to build trust in Congress and has offered staff trainings for years. The picture is not all grim, Fitch said, pointing to last year’s 21 percent boost to the funds that lawmakers use to pay their aides. Moves like that could prevent brain drain, but it won’t happen overnight, he said. 

“Decisions and actions taken by the Congress may need some time for their full effects to be felt,” Fitch said.

The cohort he surveyed may be closest to the levers of power, holding senior roles and management positions, but many believe Congress’ woes begin at the bottom, where some junior staffers make less than a living wage. A sea change could be coming, after the House cleared the way for legislative staffers to begin unionizing later this month if they choose.

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