Going Postal? Congress and Constituents Alike Shun Snail Mail, Study Shows

When was the last time you took to pen and paper to let your congressman know just where you stand on an issue? And then tucked your missive in an envelope and shot it off to Washington?

Well, if you’re like a growing number of Americans, the last time you sent a letter to Congress may have been in the last century. A recent analysis of congressional communications shows the amount of postal mail sent to lawmakers dropped by more than 50 percent from 1995 to 2011. Letters to lawmakers dropped from almost 53 million in 1995 to fewer than 22 million in 2011.

Dilapidated mailbox

But the Congressional Research Service said people still are weighing in more and more with elected officials. Over 300 million emails were sent to congressional offices during the same period, it said.

As a result, postal mail dropped to only 7 percent of all the mail coming to Capitol Hill by 2011, the CRS told lawmakers in a new report.

The same trend also is seen going the other way. Electronic communications have become, far and away, the most common method for House and Senate members to communicate with their constituents, the CRS said.

While aggregate mass mailings sent via the U.S. mail never reached the 60 million level in any quarter between 1998 and 2008, hundreds of millions of pieces of mass communication were sent in most quarters between 2009 and 2015, according to the report.

The upshot of the rise of email and use of social media in congressional offices? Nominal mail costs have declined over 60 percent in the past 12 years, from $19.3 million to $8.3 million, the CRS said. Adjusted for inflation, that represents a two-thirds decrease in mail costs.