Elites, Interest Groups and Average Citizens

Academic

Source

Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Group, and Average Citizens
Perspectives on Politics
Volume: 
12
Issue: 
3
Page numbers: 
564-581
Pages: 
18

Summary:

In a first-of-its-kind analysis, the authors have empirically measured the relative influence of affluent citizens (ninetieth income percentile and above), average income citizens (median income percentile), mass-based interest groups, and business-oriented interest groups on nearly 1,800 policy issues from 1981 to 2002. Key findings include:

  • The policy preferences of average income citizens have a statistically non-significant, near-zero effect on policy outcomes.
  • Mass-based interest groups do not serve as proxies for average income citizens as their net policy preferences do not align to each other in any significant way.
  • The preferences of affluent citizens, and business-based interest groups, significantly influence policy outcomes.

The findings strongly support two of the four dominant theories on what drives policy outputs – Economic Elite Domination and Biased (pro-business) Pluralism. The other two prominent theories – Majoritarian Electoral Democracy and Majoritarian Pluralism – are not supported at all.

The authors conclude that 'if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.'

 

Thumbnail image: David Ohmer/Flickr

 

Author(s)
Martin Gilens

Princeton University

Benjamin Page

Northwestern University

Countries/Regions
USA
Published Date
September 18, 2014