Congress on the Internet: Messages on the Homepages of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1996 and 2001


  • Sharon E. Jarvis,

    Corresponding author
    1. Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies and the Associate Director of The Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Participation at the University of Texas at Austin. She teaches and conducts research in the area of political communication. She is a co-author of Political Keywords: Using Language that Uses Us (Oxford University Press) and her articles have been published in such journals as Journal of Communication, American Behavioral Scientist, Political Psychology, and Political Communication.
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  • Kristen Wilkerson

    Corresponding author
    1. Completed a doctoral degree in Advertising at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research interests are in political advertising and the use of technology in political campaigns.
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Address: Department of Communication Studies, 1 University Station A1105, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712 USA

Address: 3403 Wheat Street, Columbia, SC 29205 USA


This article explores the World Wide Web homepages of members of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1996 and 2001, focusing specifically on what the content posted to these sites suggests about their ideal audiences. Despite considerable changes in the content of business, entertainment, and political campaign sites over this five-year time period, we found few notable changes in the pages over time. Moreover, the pages harbor particular assumptions about audiences that depart from other forms of Congressional communications and lag far behind the interactive innovations found in political campaign sites. These findings lead to suggestions for the creation of sites that are more in line with the potential the medium presents for the online public.