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Large-N bill positions data from MapLight.org: What can we learn from interest groups’ publicly observable legislative positions?

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The transparency organization MapLight records instances of organizations taking positions for and against legislation in Congress. The dataset comprises some 130,000 such positions taken on thousands of bills between the 109th and 115th Congresses (2005–2018). The depth and breadth of these data potentially give them wide applicability for answering questions about interest group behavior and influence as well as legislative politics more broadly. However, the coverage and content of the data are affected by aspects of MapLight’s research process. This article introduces the MapLight dataset and its potential uses, examines issues related to sampling and other aspects of MapLight’s research process, and explains how scholars can address these to make appropriate use of the data.
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Vol:.(1234567890)
Interest Groups & Advocacy (2020) 9:342–360
https://doi.org/10.1057/s41309-020-00085-x
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Large‑N bill positions data fromMapLight.org: What can we
learn frominterest groups’ publicly observable legislative
positions?
GeoreyM.Lorenz1 · AlexanderC.Furnas2· JesseM.Crosson3
Published online: 22 April 2020
© Springer Nature Limited 2020
Abstract
The transparency organization MapLight records instances of organizations tak-
ing positions for and against legislation in Congress. The dataset comprises some
130,000 such positions taken on thousands of bills between the 109th and 115th
Congresses (2005–2018). The depth and breadth of these data potentially give them
wide applicability for answering questions about interest group behavior and influ-
ence as well as legislative politics more broadly. However, the coverage and content
of the data are affected by aspects of MapLight’s research process. This article intro-
duces the MapLight dataset and its potential uses, examines issues related to sam-
pling and other aspects of MapLight’s research process, and explains how scholars
can address these to make appropriate use of the data.
Keywords MapLight· Interest groups· Legislative politics· Political economy·
Lobbying· Bill positions· Congress
Interest groups routinely lobby for and against legislation in the U.S. Congress.
These efforts may influence a bill’s content as well as its likelihood of advancing
through the legislative process and into law. For decades, scholarship on inter-
est groups has been hampered by the difficulty of assessing groups’ positions on
* Geoffrey M. Lorenz
gmlorenz@unl.edu
Alexander C. Furnas
zfurnas@umich.edu
Jesse M. Crosson
jcrosson9@gmail.com
1 Department ofPolitical Science, University ofNebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, USA
2 Department ofPolitical Science, University ofMichigan, AnnArbor, USA
3 Trinity University andFaculty Fellow, Center fortheStudy ofDemocratic Politics, Princeton
University, Princeton, USA
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
... The raw data described by Geoffrey Lorenz, Alexander Furnas, and Jesse Crosson, for example, come from MapLight, a nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) charitable organization that collects (and freely shares) data related to the role of money in politics. Lorenz, Furnas, and Crosson describe the structure of these data-more than 130,000 observations of organizations taking positions for and against legislation in Congress between the 109th and 115th Congresses (2005Congresses ( -2018-and give examples of how these data have been, and might be, used (Lorenz et al. 2020). ...
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