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During the 2008 election season, politicians from both sides of the aisle promised to rid government of lobbyists’ undue influence. For the authors of Lobbying and Policy Change, the most extensive study ever done on the topic, these promises ring hollow—not because politicians fail to keep them but because lobbies are far less influential than political rhetoric suggests. Based on a comprehensive examination of ninety-eight issues, this volume demonstrates that sixty percent of recent lobbying campaigns failed to change policy despite millions of dollars spent trying. Why? The authors find that resources explain less than five percent of the difference between successful and unsuccessful efforts. Moreover, they show, these attempts must overcome an entrenched Washington system with a tremendous bias in favor of the status quo. Though elected officials and existing policies carry more weight, lobbies have an impact too, and when advocates for a given issue finally succeed, policy tends to change significantly. The authors argue, however, that the lobbying community so strongly reflects elite interests that it will not fundamentally alter the balance of power unless its makeup shifts dramatically in favor of average Americans’ concerns.
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Lobbying and Policy Change: Who
Wins, Who Loses, and Why
Frank R. Baumgartner
Richard J. Richardson Distinguished Professor
of Political Science, UNC-CH
Presentation to Department of Public Policy
October 2, 2009
A Collaborative Project
Jeff Berry, Tufts
Marie Hojnacki, Penn State
David Kimball, University of Missouri, St. Louis
Beth Leech, Rutgers
A Looong project:
NSF grants SBR-9905159 and SES-0111224
Our web site:
Book just published, University of Chicago
Lobbying and Policy Change
98 issues, a random sample of the objects of
lobbying activity in the federal government
•214 “sides” identified across the 98 issues
•2,221 “advocates” important players
40 percent are government officials
60 percent are outside lobbyists: corporations, etc.
315 interviews, from leadership of the sides
106th (Clinton) and 107th (Bush) Congresses,
Secondary Data Collection
Laws, bills, congressional statements, hearing
testimonies agency rules, proposals…
News and TV stories
Press releases and organizational statements
from interest-group web sites (you’d be surprised
what is there…)
A comprehensive search for each of 98 issues
All documents are archived on our web site
•(Can be used for teaching as well as research…)
The Basics
There is always a status quo policy
The issues are tremendously complex
Sides are surprisingly heterogeneous
The structure of conflict is surprisingly simple
Salience is typically low (but skewed)
Change is rare but substantial, consistent with
punctuated equilibrium theory
There is always a professional community surrounding
the policy a very knowledgeable one
•“Knowledge-induced equilibrium” – reframing is hard!
Typical outcome after 4 years: No change
My Focus Today: Money
Other topics we focus on in the book:
•How hard is it to “reframe” a debate?
Why is the structure of conflict so simple?
Does the Poole-Rosenthal low dimensionality finding,
which we confirm, stem from institutional design, or is
it a broader characteristic of policy communities
surrounding various public policies?
Do elections change many policy issues?
Is issue-salience endogenous or exogenous?
•Attention scarcity (apathy, other priorities) v. “conflict
A Misguided Literature
Baumgartner and Leech (1998) noted the
contradictory nature of research into the effects of
money on policy outcomes.
Contradictory literature based on case studies
But we think a logical flaw as well:
Mobilizational bias is already reflected in the SQ.
Lobbying is about changing the status quo, which is a
different question.
Therefore, we expect no relation between lobbying
activities and outcomes.
Level v. Change Models
Lobbying is about changing public policy, not
establishing it from scratch
Virtually all the literature sets up the question as one
between lobbying resources and policy benefits, as if
there were no status quo in place
Efforts to change policy start with a status quo that
already reflects the distribution of power
If the wealthy wanted something, they should already
have achieved it in a previous round of the policy
No prediction for the relation between power and
changes to the status quo
Assume Power = Policy
Assume for the sake of argument that public policy is a simple
result of the mobilization of power, plus some random
Policy = Power + E
It follows, then, that:
Change in Policy = Change in Power + E
If change in power is zero, as it would be during any relatively
short time period, then:
Change in Policy = E
That is, it should be random.
Adding in stochastic “disturbances” should also be random.
Long term mobilization of new interests should indeed lead to
changes in policy. But only in the long-term.
An Illustration using Exchange Rates
If a market is extremely efficient, all new
information should be immediately
incorporated into the trades.
Step one, look at levels
Step two, calculate percent changes
Step three, look at the distribution of changes
Efficient Market Thesis: Random walk >
Normal Distribution
Daily LEVEL of the Euro against the
Dollar, Jan 99 to Nov 08
Distribution of Percent Changes is
virtually random
Is this Professor Crazy?
Proposal: no linkage between the lobbying
resources brought to bear in DC and policy
Evidence: A random sample of the objects of
lobbying, including exhaustive searches for
participant resources.
Lets turn to that evidence now.
Issues by Topic Area: The Lobbying Agenda
Topic Frequency
Health 21
Environment 13
Transportation 8
Banking, Finance, and Commerce 7
Defense and National Security 7
Science, Technology, and Communication 7
Foreign Trade 6
Education 5
Energy 5
Law, Crime, and Family Policy 5
Government Operations 3
Labor, Employment, Immigration 3
Community Development and Housing 2
Macroeconomics and Taxation 2
Social Welfare 2
Agriculture 1
International Affairs and Foreign Aid 1
Total 98
Topic areas are based on the coding scheme used in the Policy Agendas Project (
Table 11.1 Summary of Policy Outcomes
Policy outcome Initial
2-year cycle Subsequent
2-year cycle
No change (status quo) 68 58
Modest policy change 13 13
Significant policy change 17 27
Number of issues 98 98
Interest Group Advocates
Percent in Sample
Citizen groups
Govt. associations
Issue identifiers Major participants
Policy “Sides”
A Side: set of advocates pursuing the same policy
10 major participants on a side, on average
214 sides in our study
130 pursuing policy change
84 defending the status quo
16 issues had just one side
60 issues had two opposing sides
22 issues had three or more sides
This simplicity of mobilization contrasts with the
substantive complexity of the policy issues discussed
Which side won? A simple question.
Measuring Material Resources
For every lobbying organization, we looked up:
Total campaign contributions (hard and soft)
Total lobbying expenditures
Number of in-house lobbyists
Number of contract lobbyists
Number of “covered officials”
Number of issue areas on which they lobby
Organizational resources (index of budget, staff,
assets, and income)
Business resources (index of sales, income,
Reliability measure (alpha): advocates (.75), sides (.92)
Resources of Advocates and Sides
Sides: Organizations sharing the same policy
Simple idea: Compare the total resources
controlled by the advocates on each side, and
see which side got more of what they wanted
Simple question: Do the wealthy win?
Distribution of Advocate Resources
100 200 300 400
Number of advocates
-1 0 1 2
Advocate resource index
N = 1243 non-governmental advocates
Do the Wealthy Lobby with Wealthy Allies?
Control of resources by individual lobbying organizations is
highly skewed
(We expect to win no prize for this finding…)
An Open Question: Do the wealthy lobby with wealthy allies? Or are
the sides active on our sample of issues relatively heterogeneous?
If policy were: a) uni-dimensional or b) created from a blank slate, we
might expect the sides to be homogeneous
But policies are highly complex, affecting diverse constituencies.
Efforts to change established policies may attract diverse
constituencies and also mobilize into action diverse constituencies who
may be worried about the effects of such changes
All members of a side, by definition, will achieve the same outcome
Therefore, if the sides are diverse with respect to control of resources,
resources cannot, mathematically, be related to outcomes
Correlations among control of various resources and the
aggregate resources controlled by one’s allies
Annual Sales+
Annual Income+
Number of Employees+
Lobbying Expenditures+^
Number of Former Officials Lobbying+^
PAC Contributions+^
Membership Size^
Organizational Assets^
Annual Budget^
Total Staff Size^
Index of Organizational Resources^
Index of Corporate Resources+
N = 1,258 * p < .01 + measure available for corporations ^ measure
available for organizations
Distribution of Resources per Advocate
100 200 300 400
Number of advocates
-1 0 1 2
Advocate resource index
N = 1243 non-governmental advocates
Distribution of Resources per Side
Against compulsory licensing
For compulsory licensing
020 40 60
Number of sides
-6 -4 -2 0 2
Comparative resource advantage
N = 214 policy sides
Resources for Change vs. Status Quo
-1 01234
Resources Supporting the Status Quo
-1 0 1 2 3 4
Resources for Policy Change
45-degree line superimposed on graph
N = 80 issues; Pearson's r = 0.44
Correlations with Policy Success
Number of members in the side (size)
Number of Fortune Power 25 Members
Resource Index Score
N = 214 sides
None of the correlations is statistically significant
Resources Mobilized in 48 Cases where the
Status Quo Remained in Place
Resources Supporting the Status Quo
0 1 2 3 4 5
Resources for Policy Change
Resources Mobilized in 32 Cases where Change
Government Allies Matter More
than Material Resources
Type of Resource
Percent of Issues
where the Wealthier
Side Won
of Issues
High-level Government Allies
Number of Covered Officials
Mid-Level Government Allies
Business Financial Resources Index
Lobbying Expenditures
Association Financial Resources Index
Campaign Contributions
P< .01
Cell entries show the percent of the issues in which the side with the greatest
control of that resource achieved its policy goal. N’s vary because cases are included only
if at least one of the sides controlled the resource in question, there was no tie, and there
was an opposing side.
An Ordinal Logit Model of Success in
Protecting The Status Quo
Independent Variables
Policy success
after two years
Policy success
after four years
Comparative resource advantage for status quo
Mid-level government allies defending status quo
Executive branch promoting policy change
Members of Congress promoting policy change
Organized interests promoting change
Other obstacles to status quo position
Interpreting the Coefficients
A. Protecting the Status Quo:
Resource Advantage Likelihood of Success
20th percentile .76
80th percentile .94
Administration actively seeking change?
Yes .29
No .88
(All other variables at their means/medians)
An Ordinal Logit Model for Success
in Challenging the Status Quo
Independent Variables
Policy success
after two years
Policy success
after four years
Comparative resource advantage for challengers
Mid-level government allies promoting policy
Executive branch opposition to policy change
Members of Congress opposed to policy change
Organized interests opposing policy change
Lack of attention
Other obstacles to policy change
Interpreting the Coefficients
B. Changing the Status Quo:
Resource Advantage Likelihood of Success
20th percentile .17
80th percentile .32
Administration actively opposed?
Yes .06
No .24
(All other variables at their means/medians)
These models don’t work very well
Comparative resource advantage helps, but is not
Policy success does not go to the wealthiest lobbyists
They fight within heterogeneous teams
Government officials themselves play a key role
The position of the President matters
Policy stability is the norm, so lobbying comes to a
stand-still, protecting the status quo
However, 42 percent of the cases led to change
When change occurred it was usually substantial
Our Concerns about Lobbying may
be Misplaced
Mobilization of bias is probably a more serious
problem for democratic representation than the
actions of lobbyists themselves
The bias is not that the wealthy lobbyists defeat
the poorer coalitions; we have shown that
Rather, the lobbying community does not reflect
Americans’ values:
The Concerns of Lobbyists v. the
Concerns of the Public
0 5 10 15 20 25 30
Law, Crime, and Family Policy
Macroeconomics and Taxation
International Affairs and Foreign Aid
Social Welfare
Government Operations
Defense and National Security
Civil Rights
Labor, Employment, Immigration
Science, Technology, and Communication
Banking, Finance, and Commerce
Foreign Trade
Community Development and Housing
Public Lands and Interior Affairs
Figure shows the percentage of lobbying by issue area compared to answers to the
Gallup question: What is the most important problem facing the country today?
Totally confused?
-Don’t buy the argument that change
models aren’t the same as level models?
-Think the literature’s supposition that
money buys power is correct, but all
previous studies have been flawed by
research design, explaining mixed
Ask a question now or email me at:
... Johnston & Pieczka, 2018;Mansbridge, 1998). Still, a number of studies have found that organizations downplay their immediate self-interests when arguing in public (Baumgartner, Berry, Hojnacki, Kimball, & Leech, 2009;Godwin, Ainsworth, & Godwin, 2013;Naurin, 2004;Oberman, 2017;Uhre & Rommetvedt, 2019). In a study of 172 sides tied to a range of different policy issues, Baumgartner et al. (2009) found that 62,8 percent "used an argument that the policy at hand promoted a widely shared goal, or, alternatively, stood in the way of achieving some broad appealing goal (e.g., public safety, improving the economy, improving rural health care)" (p. ...
... Still, a number of studies have found that organizations downplay their immediate self-interests when arguing in public (Baumgartner, Berry, Hojnacki, Kimball, & Leech, 2009;Godwin, Ainsworth, & Godwin, 2013;Naurin, 2004;Oberman, 2017;Uhre & Rommetvedt, 2019). In a study of 172 sides tied to a range of different policy issues, Baumgartner et al. (2009) found that 62,8 percent "used an argument that the policy at hand promoted a widely shared goal, or, alternatively, stood in the way of achieving some broad appealing goal (e.g., public safety, improving the economy, improving rural health care)" (p. 133). ...
... The problem is that the ideal of deliberative democracy and the practice of lobbying do not fit well together. Most lobbying campaigns do not get any media coverage at all and particularly business lobbyists prefer to keep their lobbying campaigns out of the public sphere (Baumgartner et al., 2009;Culpepper, 2010). Thus, lobbying is a form of political public relations that easily can avoid public deliberation and it is not given that capture or corruption of the public interest is exposed. ...
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An organization's social license to operate depends on how it acts according to social norms, engages with stakeholders, and meets some kind of public interest. As will be discussed, the notion of the public interest is complex. Still, our analysis focuses on the process whereby the notion is communicatively constructed through negotiations where public relations plays an important role. The paper analyzes 58 qualitative interviews with public relations practitioners and lobbyists. We unpack the rhetorical strategies they use when they talk about the public interest and its relation to their organization. The practitioners primarily refer to positive economic consequences created by their employer. Frequently, they conflate the core activity of their organization with the public interest. The theoretical contribution of the paper is in demonstrating the versatility and dynamic aspect of "the public interest" as a tool to create a social license to operate. Beyond the material topic of economy, the practitioners highlighted contributions in areas such as public health, democracy and the environment.
... Entman, 2004;Lock et al., 2020). Frames from different actors compete for media and public attention (Baumgartner et al., 2009); thus, understanding frame competition has become an important and relevant research area in communication studies, including investigating how opposing frames are presented together (Sniderman & Theriault, 2004) and how certain ones gain influence (Baumgartner et al., 2009). ...
... Entman, 2004;Lock et al., 2020). Frames from different actors compete for media and public attention (Baumgartner et al., 2009); thus, understanding frame competition has become an important and relevant research area in communication studies, including investigating how opposing frames are presented together (Sniderman & Theriault, 2004) and how certain ones gain influence (Baumgartner et al., 2009). ...
... The findings, although limited to one specific campaign in each case, show that the communication strategy of using appeals to the public interest and common values as suggested by the literature on lobbying (Baumgartner et al., 2009;Rommetvedt, 2011) is also used among sectional organizations such as unions. Given that the campaigns were designed to be media friendly and attention-grabbing public efforts, a framing around this motive seems an "obvious" solution for trade unions. ...
Full-text available
Although framing theory has been extensively studied in strategic communication comparatively, little is known about how trade unions, as a specific type of organization, use framing strategies to achieve their organizational goals. Trade unions frequently aim to present themselves as cause groups, campaigning for broader societal benefits and values. A key communicative challenge for them is to argue that the interest of their members equates to the public interest. How do trade unions communicatively construct links between union interests and the public interest? How is this strategy reconciled with the more conflict-oriented framing found in much traditional union discourse? This study reports the results of a qualitative three-case comparison of purposively selected trade union lobbying campaigns in Italy, Norway, and the United Kingdom. The analysis shows the versatility of public interest framing across different political systems and union trajectories, and illustrates how such a framing strategy is communicatively constructed and translated into specific symbolisms.
... A possible explanation for these conflicting findings is that individual organizations rarely have much sway over legislative advancement. Instead, policy making is influenced when coalitions of organizations lobby "together" (e.g., Hula 1999) toward a shared objective, particularly when those coalitions are large (Gilens and Page 2014;Grossmann and Pyle 2013) or possess high levels of lobbyingrelevant resources such as lobbyists or campaign contributions (Baumgartner et al. 2009;Mahoney and Baumgartner 2015). And so, if large or high-resource coalitions have greater legislative influence, those interests may bias lawmaking in their favor, and animosity toward legislators and lobbyists alike may be well founded. ...
... In most cases, more than one group is lobbying on a bill at any given time. Groups often compete on legislative issues (Baumgartner et al. 2009;Holyoke 2011), forming what Baumgartner et al. (2009) refer to as two lobbying "sides": supporters of a policy proposal and opponents of that proposal. Within a side, interest groups may coordinate lobbying efforts by forming coalitions with one another (Hula 1999). ...
... In most cases, more than one group is lobbying on a bill at any given time. Groups often compete on legislative issues (Baumgartner et al. 2009;Holyoke 2011), forming what Baumgartner et al. (2009) refer to as two lobbying "sides": supporters of a policy proposal and opponents of that proposal. Within a side, interest groups may coordinate lobbying efforts by forming coalitions with one another (Hula 1999). ...
For most congressional legislation, committee consideration is the first and most drastic winnowing point. Organized interest groups try to influence this winnowing. Many have suggested such influence arises from organizational resources. I offer an alternative view based on the need of policy-motivated committee agenda setters to assess the viability of bills before granting them consideration. Such needs incentivize agenda setters to favor legislation supported by organizations representing diverse industries, causes, and other interests. Analyzing new data on organizations’ positions on over 4,700 bills introduced between 2005 and 2014, I show that committee consideration favors such “interest diverse” coalitions, not coalitions that are large but homogeneous or that give high levels of campaign contributions. These associations are stronger when viability information is more valuable, for majority-party bills and bills introduced during divided government. This suggests that lobbying helps agenda setters identify, and promote, legislation likely to garner widespread and diverse support.
... These data are available through the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) (Heinz et al. 1982). Baumgartner et al. (2009) Heinz et al. (1993) Interviews with Washington elite 1990s ICPSR Walker (1983Walker ( , 1991Walker ( , 2006 Interviews with Washington elite 1980Washington elite , 1985Washington elite , 2006 ICPSR objects of lobbying activity in the federal government and look specifically at 98 issues, on which they identify both "sides" and "advocates." They use both interviews and other secondary data to better understand the process of lobbying and policymaking in Washington, DC. ...
... Likewise, although interest groups clearly desire to shape the actions of government, finding direct evidence of group influence on public policy, however defined, remains a challenge. This challenge is especially acute when assessing whether a group's effort to maintain a favorable status quo had a significant impact on the outcome (Baumgartner et al. 2009). ...
This article reviews the literature featuring quantitative interest group research at the national and subnational level in the United States. We direct scholars to existing resources and techniques. Additionally, we make recommendations on methods and discuss the limitations of prevailing measures. The appropriate measure is driven by the research question and data availability. However, since money is a central resource in politics, every attempt should be made to include organization or sector financial resources when investigating the relative strength of groups in policymaking.
... Fifth, we need to think about which issues to study. We pay a lot of attention to some issues (e.g., environmental policy, social welfare policies, and LGBT rights), and, at least in high-impact journals, much less to other much-debated policies (e.g., abortion, education, foreign affairs, health, infrastructure, trade, and taxes), and, almost none to the many relatively obscure issues found in random samples of issues and policy proposals (Baumgartner et al. 2009;Burstein 2014). Yet findings from random samples of issues are likely to differ considerably from the findings we're used to; in random samples, advocacy and opinion will affect policy much less frequently (Burstein 2020c). ...
Researchers asking whether policy is affected by social movement organizations, interest groups, and other types of advocacy organizations usually expect the answer to be yes. More often than not, their expectations are disappointed. This paper considers why, considering whether the impact of advocacy is affected by which issues and polities are studied, how advocacy and policy are measured, the amount of advocacy, status quo bias, and the connection between advocacy and public opinion. Through a research synthesis of work on advocacy and policy, the paper finds that estimates of impact are probably affected by measurement, the paucity of advocacy on many issues, and whether public opinion is considered together with advocacy; but probably not by the selection of issues and polities or status quo bias. The findings lead to suggestions for improvements in research design that would enhance our understanding of the links between advocacy and policy.
... Empowerment as a construct is the capacity to exert power; as an outcome, it is the exertion of power. Political power is constrained by the political opportunity structure and actor resources (Bachrach & Botwinick, 1992;Baumgartner, 2009;Lowery, 2013;Meyer & Minkoff, 2004). Since governments cannot alter the psychological components of empowerment, which are within the control of the citizen alone (Barnes, 2003), they can only alter the political opportunity structure and allocation of resources through empowering (or disempowering) policy instruments. ...
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Governments which design policies to empower marginalized groups contribute to reducing the democratic deficit in public policy and improve their efficacy, efficiency, and democratic credentials. This article uses fuzzy set ideal type analysis to propose three ideal types of policy design for political empowerment, according to whether the government views the target group as capable only of being Informed by experts, or of being Involved in policy, or even Empowered to co-govern. An analysis of Western European autism policy illustrates and confirms the usefulness of the ideal types. England, Wales, and Denmark emerge as countries where governments have the highest expectations for political empowerment. Surprisingly, traditional disability policy groupings seem not to apply, with the UK split across Empowered and Involved, while Spain leaves its Informed Southern European counterparts to join the Involved cohort. This paper is a timely reminder of the importance of lived experience as a policy resource lived experience as a policy resource. K E Y W O R D S autism policy, citizen participation, empowerment, marginalized groups, policy design
... Just because there is little evidence of post-punctuation change does not mean everything is quiet and organizations representing the older, displaced interests are not trying to fight back. Baumgartner et al. (2009) find evidence of organized advocacy against current policies in many domains, just with enough power and influence to change them. What is not clear, though, is why big new policies quickly become so resistant to counter-advocacy and further change. ...
This chapter introduces a combination of theoretical concepts that inform and motivate the empirical analysis of the next chapters. These are relational class theory, power structure analysis, accumulation strategies, revolving doors, the competition state, dependent development, socio-economic disintegration, economic nationalism, neo-nationalism and the accumulative state. These concepts are the fundamental building blocks of the causal mechanism developed in the book and synthesised in the concluding chapter. Instead of identifying the Hungarian case as a deviation from capitalist norms, the chapter interprets authoritarian politics in the context of capital accumulation, while also rejecting economic determinism that characterises much of critical political economy. Hungary’s authoritarian turn is the result of the reconfiguration of the dominant power bloc and the concomitant change in the accumulation strategy within the context of dependent development. The chapter concludes with a detailed description of the data and methodology.
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Many of the early important empirical works on policymaking in Washington were built around elite interviews. We first learned about how Congress really operates from pioneers in elite interviewing such as Lewis Anthony Dexter (1969), Ralph Huitt (1969), and Donald Matthews (1960). No less revered is the scholarship of Richard Fenno (1978), John Kingdon (1995), and Robert Salisbury (1993), who have produced enduring and respected work from elite interviewing. Yet there are few other contemporary political scientists working on public policymaking who have built reputations for their methodological skills as interviewers. Elite interviewing is still widely used as the basis for collecting data, but most interviewing depends on a few trusted templates. Most commonly, elites in a particular institution are chosen at random and subjected to the same interview protocol composed of structured or semistructured questions. For example, state legislators are asked a series of questions about their attitudes on particular issues or institutional practices. Or policymakers involved in certain issues are selected and then quizzed about those matters. Some confident and skilled interviewers, like William Browne (1988) and Richard Hall (1996), combine different interview approaches in their work but they are the exceptions and not the rule.
I assess the extent of "partisan voting" in American national elections since 1952 using a series of simple probit analyses. My measure of partisan voting is sensitive both to changes in the distribution of partisanship and to changes in the electoral relevance of partisanship. I find that the impact of partisan loyalties on voting behavior has increased in each of the last six presidential elections, reaching a level in 1996 almost 80 percent higher than in 1972-and significantly higher than in any presidential election in at least 50 years. The impact of partisanship on voting behavior in congressional elections has also increased markedly, albeit more recently and to a level still well below that of the 1950s. I conclude that the conventional wisdom among scholars and commentators regarding the "decline of parties" in American politics is badly outdated.
Public opinion often depends on which frames elites choose to use. For example, citizens’ opinions about a Ku Klux Klan rally may depend on whether elites frame it as a free speech issue or a public safety issue. An important concern is that elites face few constraints to using frames to influence and manipulate citizens’ opinions. Indeed, virtually no work has investigated the limits of framing effects. In this article, I explore these limits by focusing on one particular constraint—the credibility of the frame’s source. I present two laboratory experiments that suggest that elites face a clear and systematic constraint to using frames to influence and manipulate public opinion.
For the most part, scholars who study American political parties in the electorate continue to characterize them as weak and in decline. Parties on the elite level, however, have experienced a resurgence over the last two decades. Such a divergence between elite behavior and mass opinion is curious, given that most models of public opinion place the behavior of elites at their core. In fact, I find that parties in the electorate have experienced a noteworthy resurgence over the last two decades. Greater partisan polarization in Congress has clarified the parties' ideological positions for ordinary Americans, which in turn has increased party importance and salience on the mass level. Although parties in the 1990s are not as central to Americans as they were in the 1950s, they are far more important today than in the 1970s and 1980s. The party decline thesis is in need of revision.
Professional lobbyists are among the most experienced, knowledgeable, and strategic actors one can find in the everyday practice of politics. Nonetheless, their behavioral patterns often appear anomalous when viewed in the light of existing theories. We revisit these anomalies in search of an alternative theory. We model lobbying not as exchange (vote buying) or persuasion (informative signaling) but as a form of legislative subsidy—a matching grant of policy information, political intelligence, and legislative labor to the enterprises of strategically selected legislators. The proximate political objective of this strategy is not to change legislators' minds but to assist natural allies in achieving their own, coincident objectives. The theory is simple in form, realistic in its principal assumptions, and counterintuitive in its main implications. Empirically, the model renders otherwise anomalous regularities comprehensible and predictable. In a later section, we briefly bring preferences back in, examining the important but relatively uncommon conditions under which preference-centered lobbying should occur.
Techniques of modern lobbying provide organized interests a variety of tactical options. How does the mix of tactics employed by groups vary across different lobbying campaigns? When, and why, will groups use some tactics and not others? Prior research points to organizational structure and resources, features of the issue, and institutional forces as crucial determinants of lobbying. We analyze patterns of advocacy using data from a survey of interest groups about their activities on 15 federal nominations for judicial and related offices considered by the U.S. Senate from 1984 through 1991. We find that the overall amount of advocacy varies across nominations according to the importance of the office, as do the types of organizations involved—but lobbying tactics do not. We also find that organizational resources have some effects on the use of some tactics, but overall these effects are quite limited. Organizations of all types engage in multiple, often disparate, tactics. The absence of strong organizational constraints helps to account for the regularities we observe across lobbying campaigns.
“Winnowing” is the pre-floor process by which Congress determines the small percentage of bills that will receive committee attention. The vast majority of proposals languish in this vital agenda-setting stage, yet our understanding of winnowing is nascent. Why do some bills move forward while most fail? I examine that question here by developing and testing a theoretical framework of winnowing grounded in bounded rationality, which includes institutional and sponsor cues and also incorporates the unique issue milieu. A heteroskedastic probit model is utilized to analyze the winnowing fate of all bills introduced across five issue areas in the House and Senate from 1991 to 1998. The findings counter much received wisdom and suggest that the process is indeed cue based. The majority party helps structure this critical process in both chambers, though party effects appear stronger in the House. Contrary to recent work on the rise of Senate individualism, the seniority of the sponsor has significant effects in both the Senate and House, but again exhibits a stronger effect in the House. Surprisingly, presidential proposals are no more likely to survive than typical bills. The findings further suggest that the entrepreneurial efforts of bill sponsors breathe life into this process.