Craig Volden

Professor of Public Policy and Politics, Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, University of Virginia
Areas of Expertise:

About Craig

Volden’s research examines the way that governments learn from policies found elsewhere. Under which conditions do states, localities, or countries adopt one another’s policies? He also studies the characteristics of effective policymakers. Who are the most effective members of Congress, why, and with what effects? This work has been of interest to citizens and policymakers alike. For example, he has offered advice to the National Association of County and City Health Organizations in the U.S. on ways to better promote the spread of limitations on sugar-sweetened beverages, and has advised the government of New South Wales in Australia on adopting more innovative policies.


Who are the Most Effective Lawmakers in Congress?

    Alan E. Wiseman

In the News

"How the Record Number of Female Lawmakers Will — and Won’t — Change Congress," Craig Volden (with Alan E. Wiseman and Dana Wittmer Wolfe), The Washington Post, January 23, 2019.
Craig Volden quoted on effective lawmakers in Congress by Jessica Wehrman , "Ohio Lawmakers Introduce Plenty of Bills, but Only a Few Will Pass" The Columbus Dispatch, November 24, 2017.
Craig Volden's research on overcoming partisan bias in policymaking discussed by "Study Looks at Possible Solution to Partisan Gridlock," CBS Charlottesville, February 17, 2017.
Craig Volden's research on Katie McNally, "These Strategies Can Help Policymakers Break through Partisan Gridlock," UVA Today, February 16, 2017.
"Does Bipartisanship Even Work in Today’s Polarized Congress? Yes.," Craig Volden (with Alan E. Wiseman), The Washington Post, January 3, 2017.
Sarah F. Anzia quoted on women in office by Matthew Yglesias, "A Hillary Clinton Presidency Will Greatly Boost Women's Representation in Politics, with Big Policy Consequences" Vox, June 6, 2016.
Guest to discuss crafting a Congressional scorecard on Virginia Public Radio, Craig Volden (with Alan E. Wiseman), February 1, 2016.
"These are the 10 Most Effective Lawmakers in the U.S. Congress," Craig Volden (with Alan E. Wiseman), The Washington Post, December 28, 2015.
Craig Volden's research on the legislative effectiveness of Congressman Don Young discussed by Liz Ruskin, "Young, Credited with Effectiveness, Says Personality is Part of his M.O.," Alaska Public Media, January 12, 2015.
Craig Volden's research on the effectiveness of the newly elected Congress discussed by Jim Patterson, "Effective Lawmakers Re-Elected to the 114th Congress," Vanderbilt Research News, November 5, 2014.
Craig Volden quoted on Congressional affairs by John T. Bennett ABC 13 News Now, November 5, 2014.
Guest to discuss legislative effectiveness on WVTF Public Radio, Craig Volden (with Alan E. Wiseman), October 23, 2014.
Craig Volden's research on legislative effectiveness (with Alan E. Wiseman) discussed by Deirdre Shesgreen, "Long Lags behind Hartzler, Other Congressional Peers on Legislative Effectiveness," Springfield News-Leader, October 19, 2014.
Craig Volden's research on legislative effectiveness (with Alan E. Wiseman) discussed by H. Brevy Cannon, "How Effective is Your Member of Congress? Scholars Create a Effectiveness Score," UVA Today, October 14, 2014.
"On Average, Women in Congress are More Effective Lawmakers Than Men," Craig Volden (with Alan E. Wiseman and Dana E. Wittmer), American Politics and Policy, London School of Economics Blog, September 20, 2013.
"Are Women More Effective Legislators?," Craig Volden, Interview with Touré, MSNBC’s The Cycle, April 9, 2013.
Craig Volden's research on the relative effectiveness of women legislators (with Alan Wiseman and Dana Wittmer) discussed by Jennifer Steinhauer, "Once Few, Women Hold More Power in Senate," New York Times, March 22, 2013.
Craig Volden's research on rates of gridlock on “women’s issue bills” discussed by Lauren Sandler, "Women Govern Differently than Men – They’re Better," New York Magazine, November 5, 2012.


"When are Women More Effective Lawmakers than Men?" (with Alan Wiseman and Dana Wittmer). American Journal of Political Science 57, no. 2 (2013): 326-341.
Measures the legislative effectiveness of members of Congress and determines that women are more effective than men on average, particularly because in the minority party women are more likely to reach across party lines and continue to push their policy agendas.
"Policy Diffusion: Seven Lessons for Scholars and Practitioners" (with Charles R. Shipan). Public Administration Review 72, no. 6 (2012): 788-796.
Defines policy diffusion and summarizes what practitioners can learn from the scholarship to date in order to adopt and spread more innovative policies.
"Privatization and the Diffusion of Innovations" (with Vanessa Bouché). Journal of Politics 73, no. 2 (2011): 428-442.
Studies the spread of innovative foster care policies across counties and shows that privatization results in the early adoption of innovations, but that networks of public officials enhance subsequent learning and policy diffusion, offering a new lens on the potential benefits of public-private partnerships.
"The Mechanisms of Policy Diffusion" (with Charles R. Shipan). American Journal of Political Science 52, no. 4 (2008): 840-857.
Looks at the spread of local antismoking policies and determines that, while large cities learn from policy successes elsewhere, smaller cities are more likely to select policies based on merely copying whatever their larger neighbors are doing or based on fear of competition with surrounding communities.
"Bottom-Up Federalism: The Diffusion of Antismoking Policies from U.S. Cities to States" (with Charles R. Shipan). American Journal of Political Science 50, no. 4 (2006): 825-843.
Studies the upward spread of local policy experiments and finds that governments are much more likely to adopt local policy innovations only when they have sufficient capacity (professional legislatures) and face substantial political pressure (health organization interest groups).