Conversing with Congress: An Experiment in AI-Enabled Communication

Blog by Beth Noveck: “Each Member of the US House Representative speaks for 747,184 people – a staggering increase from 50 years ago. In the Senate, this disproportion is even more pronounced: on average each Senator represents 1.6 million more constituents than her predecessor a generation ago. That’s a lower level of representation than any other industrialized democracy.  

As the population grows (over 60% since 1970), so, too, does constituent communications. 

But that communication is not working well. According to the Congressional Management Foundation, this overwhelming communication volume leads to dissatisfaction among voters who feel their views are not adequately considered by their representatives….A pioneering and important new study published in Government Information Quarterly entitled “Can AI communication tools increase legislative responsiveness and trust in democratic institutions?” (Volume 40, Issue 3, June 2023, 101829) from two Cornell researchers is shedding new light on the practical potential for AI to create more meaningful constituent communication….Depending on the treatment group they either were or were not told when replies were AI-drafted.

Their findings are telling. Standard, generic responses fare poorly in gaining trust. In contrast, all AI-assisted responses, particularly those with human involvement, significantly boost trust. “Legislative correspondence generated by AI with human oversight may be received favorably.” 

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While the study found AI-assisted replies to be more trustworthy, it also explored how the quality of these replies impacts perception. When they conducted this study, ChatGPT was still in its infancy and more prone to linguistic hallucinations so they also tested in a second experiment how people perceived higher, more relevant and responsive replies against lower quality, irrelevant replies drafted with AI…(More)”.