Visualizing transparency: A look through MuckRock's request data

Visualizing transparency: A look through MuckRock’s request data

MuckRock’s Eesha Pendharkar sifted through the last four years of our request data - here’s what she found

Written by
Edited by JPat Brown

Federal Data

Waiting for FOIA requests to be completed is always hard, but some people might be waiting years to get responses. An analysis of MuckRock data showed request completion over a duration of four years - while almost 93% requests to federal, state, and local agencies were done within a year, more than 1500 requests took between two to five years to be completed.

Total requests completed over four years

Just 45% of all requests (slightly more than 10,000) were completed in a month. The visualization below shows the number of requests completed on each day of the first month, from which see that 4% of all FOIA requests were completed in just one day.

Cumulative percentage of all requests completed per month

All requests completed within 30 days

State Data

At the state level, requests may be fulfilled on a vastly different timeline, depending on which state the requests are sent to. The data showed an average request completion time ranging from 11 days for Arkansas to 112 days for Mississippi. Massachusetts was the third slowest state, with an average of 81.7 days.

Average Request time per state

Average request time per state

However, there wasn’t really a correlation between the duration of the request and the success rate.

Success rate per state


Looking at Massachusetts data in detail, a larger disparity was found for local request data per town. While a few towns took just a day or two to complete requests, 10 towns had average request times of over a year.

Average request time per Massachusetts municipality

These visualizations were made in Tableau, by analyzing MuckRock’s request data via our API. The analysis and visualization making process along some more area graphs for federal, state, and local requests are coming up soon.

Image by Jslipscomb via Wikimedia Commons and is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0