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The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is often called "Congress's think tank," and operates as a nonpartisan public policy research institute. CRS reports often rely on external sources to inform lawmakers. To create a systematic account of what kinds of sources and resources they use, we analyzed 1874 reports released or updated in 2020.
We broke references down into two categories: link to websites and direct links to PDFs on the web. Generally, the CRS uses PDF links for substantive documents and web links for news stories or more transactional information about legislation. We made a further distinction between .gov domains and other domains in order to track government vs non-governmental sources.
Top Non .Gov Domains
Unsurprisingly, national papers like The Washington Post and The New York Times were quoted prominently. Business publications The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal were also referenced significantly. Only one blog made the top 25 – https://www.scotusblog.com/.
Major cable outlets did not make the top 25: CNN was ranked 32, Fox News was ranked 353, and MSNBC was not referenced in the data set.
Top .gov Domains
Overall, .gov domains were cited much more regularly than other websites. In our data set, the 14th ranked website – the IRS – had as many references as The Washington Post.
Top Domains For Direct PDF Links
A large number of CRS references are direct links to PDF files. Among these, .gov domains are predominant. GovInfo.gov, a workhorse of federal information, and the Government Accountability Office are top sources. Here are the 25 most frequently cited domains for PDF sources:
Most Linked PDF Resources
The specific documents cited by CRS also provide an interesting map of policy problems this year. Notable examples include the intelligence community assessment of Russian election interference and a report on China's trade and intellectual property practices.
Here were the top individual PDF resources linked by CRS reports: