What Capitol Hill listens to most

Spontaneous mail from constituents is the most effective way to communicate with congressional staffs -- and, through them, with lawmakers themselves -- a new survey by the American University reports.

Some 123 congressional staff members were asked which communication tools were most effective in reaching them, in view of the complex issues faced by members of Congress and their greater reliance on staff.

"Spontaneous, individually composed letters from constituents are the most effective way of communicating. . . . These letters receive more attention than any other form of written comminication," the report said.

The study also found that orchestrated mail -- such as thousands of post cards bearing the same message -- received surprisingly high ratings in the survey, although less than spontaneous constituent letters.

The importance of constituent opinion dropped, however, as congressional seniority increased. After five terms, congressional offices look first to the national news media, "possibly because a broader constituency is perceived," the re port said.

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