Friday, April 18, 2014

Have You Noticed How Powerless Your Vote is?


The Fantasy of Representative Government in the U.S.
Time to Face The Truth Vol II


I've said for some time that the political process in the U.S. was illusion designed by the ruling Elite to give cover of legitimacy to the Totalitarian State. Here is a Princeton University Study that statistically PROVES me right.

Have you noticed how powerless you are, how powerless congress seems to be, how the New World Order agenda keeps being enacted in D.C. and around the country no matter how many times you "vote your guy in" and whether it is a Democrat or Republican in the "Presidency" or majority in congress? In a "Representative Republic" how can this be? HERE is the stark reality of the New World Order = Corporate Ownership of the American Government.

The first-ever scientific study that analyzes whether the US is a democracy, rather than an oligarchy, found the majority of the American public has a “minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy” compared to the wealthy.



The study, due out in the Fall 2014 issue of the academic journal Perspectives on Politics, sets out to answer elusive questions about who really rules in the United States. The researchers measured key variables for 1,779 policy issues within a single statistical model in an unprecedented attempt “to test these contrasting theoretical predictions” – i.e. whether the US sets policy democratically or the process is dominated by economic elites, or some combination of both.

"Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts,” the researchers from Princeton University and Northwestern University wrote.

While “Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association,” the authors say the data implicate “the nearly total failure of 'median voter' and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories [of America]. When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy."

The authors of “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens” say that even as their model tilts heavily toward indications that the US is, in fact, run by the most wealthy and powerful, it actually doesn’t go far enough in describing the stranglehold connected elites have on the policymaking process.

“Our measure of the preferences of wealthy or elite Americans – though useful, and the best we could generate for a large set of policy cases – is probably less consistent with the relevant preferences than are our measures of the views of ordinary citizens or the alignments of engaged interest groups,” the researcher said.

“Yet we found substantial estimated effects even when using this imperfect measure. The real-world impact of elites upon public policy may be still greater.”

They add that the “failure of theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy is all the more striking because it goes against the likely effects of the limitations of our data. The preferences of ordinary citizens were measured more directly than our other independent variables, yet they are estimated to have the least effect.”

Despite the inexact nature of the data, the authors say with confidence that “the majority does not rule -- at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes.”

“We believe 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,” they concluded.
http://rt.com/usa/us-democracy-oligarchy-policy-512/




April 9, 2014




Testing Theories of American Politics:




Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens




Martin Gilens




Princeton University




mgilens@princeton.edu




Benjamin I. Page




Northwestern University




b-page@northwestern.edu




forthcoming Fall 2014 in Perspectives on Politics




For helpful comments the authors are indebted to Larry Bartels and Jeff Isaacs, to three




anonymous reviewers, and to seminar participants at Harvard and Rochester Universities.




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 2




2




Abstract




Each of four theoretical traditions in the study of American politics – which can be characterized




as theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy, Economic Elite Domination, and two types of




interest group pluralism, Majoritarian Pluralism and Biased Pluralism – offers different




predictions about which sets of actors have how much influence over public policy: average




citizens; economic elites; and organized interest groups, mass-based or business-oriented.




A great deal of empirical research speaks to the policy influence of one or another set of actors,




but until recently it has not been possible to test these contrasting theoretical predictions against




each other within a single statistical model. This paper reports on an effort to do so, using a




unique data set that includes measures of the key variables for 1,779 policy issues.




Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business




interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens




and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide




substantial support for theories of Economic Elite Domination and for theories of Biased




Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 3




3




Who governs? Who really rules? To what extent is the broad body of U.S. citizens




sovereign, semi-sovereign, or largely powerless? These questions have animated much important




work in the study of American politics.




While this body of research is rich and variegated, it can loosely be divided into four




families of theories: Majoritarian Electoral Democracy, Economic Elite Domination, and two




types of interest group pluralism – Majoritarian Pluralism, in which the interests of all citizens




are more or less equally represented, and Biased Pluralism, in which corporations, business




associations, and professional groups predominate) Each of these perspectives makes different




predictions about the independent influence upon U.S. policy making of four sets of actors: the




Average Citizen or “median voter,” Economic Elites, and Mass-based or Business-oriented




Interest Groups or industries.




Each of these theoretical traditions has given rise to a large body of literature. Each is




supported by a great deal of empirical evidence – some of it quantitative, some historical, some




observational – concerning the importance of various sets of actors (or, all too often, a single set




of actors) in U.S. policy making. This literature has made important contributions to our




understanding of how American politics works and has helped illuminate how democratic or




undemocratic (in various senses) our policy making process actually is. Until very recently,




however, it has been impossible to test the differing predictions of these theories against each




other within a single statistical model that permits one to analyze the independent effects of each




set of actors upon policy outcomes.




Here – in a tentative and preliminary way – we offer such test, bringing a unique data set




to bear on the problem. Our measures are far from perfect, but we hope that this first step will




help inspire further research into what we see as some of the most fundamental questions about




American politics.




The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized




groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government




policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent




influence. Our results provide substantial support for theories of Economic Elite Domination




and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or




Majoritarian Pluralism.




In what follows, we briefly review the four theoretical traditions that form the framework




for our analyses and highlight some of the most prominent empirical research associated with




each. We then describe our data and measures and present our results. We conclude by




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 4




4




discussing the implications of our work for understanding American democracy and by




identifying some of the directions for future research that our findings suggest.




Four Theoretical Traditions




Each of the four theoretical traditions we are addressing has produced a body of literature




much too vast to review in detail here. We can only allude to a few central pieces of work in




each tradition. And we must acknowledge that a particular scholar’s work does not always fall




neatly into a single category. Some scholars work across – or independently of – our theoretical




categories, embracing multiple influences and complex processes of policy making. Here we




focus on ideal types of theory, for the purpose of outlining certain distinctive predictions that




those types of theory tend to make. Given the nature of our data, we focus on the societal




sources of influence that these theories posit, rather than on the mechanisms of influence that




they discuss.




Majoritarian Electoral Democracy. Theories of majoritarian electoral democracy, as




positive or empirical theories, attribute U.S. government policies chiefly to the collective will of




average citizens, who are seen as empowered by democratic elections. Such thinking goes back




at least to Tocqueville, who (during the Jacksonian era) saw American majorities as




“omnipotent” – particularly at the state level – and worried about “tyranny of the majority.”1 It




is encapsulated in Abraham Lincoln’s reference to government “of the people, by the people, for




the people,” and was labeled by Robert Dahl “populistic democracy.” 2




An important modern incarnation of this tradition is found in rational choice theories of




electoral democracy, in which vote-seeking parties or candidates in a two-party system tend to




converge at the mid-point of citizens’ policy preferences. If preferences are jointly singlepeaked




so that they can be arrayed along a single dimension, the “median voter theorem” –




posited verbally by Harold Hotelling, proved by Duncan Black, and popularized by Anthony




Downs in his Economic Theory of Democracy – states that two vote-seeking parties will both




take the same position, at the center of the distribution of voters’ most-preferred positions.




Under the relevant assumptions, public policy that fits the preferences of the median voter is not




only the empirically-predicted equilibrium result of two-party electoral competition; as the




“Condorcet winner” it also has the normative property of being the “most democratic” policy, in




the sense that it would be preferred to any alternative policy in head-to-head majority-rule voting




by all citizens.3




Subsequent “chaos” results by social choice theorists, starting with Kenneth Arrow, have




indicated that the median voter prediction follows logically only for unidimensional politics. If




citizens’ preference orderings are not unidimensional and are sufficiently diverse, majority rule –




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 5




5




hence also two-party electoral competition – might not lead to any equilibrium outcome at all. 4




It is important to note, however, that what might theoretically happen will not necessarily ever




happen in practice. Real-world outcomes depend upon how institutions are organized and how




preferences are actually configured.




Despite the “chaos” results, and despite many criticisms of the median-voter theorem as




simplistic and empirically inapplicable or wrong,5 a good many scholars – probably more




economists than political scientists among them – still cling to the idea that the policy




preferences of the median voter tend to drive policy outputs from the U.S. political system. A




fair amount of empirical evidence has been adduced – by Alan Monroe; Benjamin Page and




Robert Shapiro; Robert Erikson, Michael MacKuen, and James Stimson (authors of the very




influential Macro Polity); and others – that seems to support the notion that the median voter




determines the results of much or most policy making. This evidence indicates that U.S. federal




government policy is consistent with majority preferences roughly two-thirds of the time; that




public policy changes in the same direction as collective preferences a similar two thirds of the




time; that the liberalism or conservatism of citizens is closely associated with the liberalism or




conservatism of policy across states; and that fluctuations in the liberal or conservative “mood”




of the public are strongly associated with changes in the liberalism or conservatism of policy in




all three branches of government.6




The fly in the ointment is that none of this evidence allows for, or explicitly assesses, the




impact of such variables as the preferences of wealthy individuals, or the preferences and actions




of organized interest groups, which may independently influence public policy while perhaps




being positively associated with public opinion – thereby producing a spurious statistical




relationship between opinion and policy.




Recent research by Larry Bartels and by one of the present authors (Gilens), which




explicitly brings the preferences of “affluent” Americans into the analysis along with the




preferences of those lower in the income distribution, indicates that the apparent connection




between public policy and the preferences of the average citizen may indeed be largely or




entirely spurious.7




The “electoral reward and punishment” version of democratic control through elections –




in which voters retrospectively judge how well the results of government policy have satisfied




their basic interests and values, and politicians enact policies in anticipation of judgments that




they expect will later be made by what V.O. Key, Jr., called “latent” public opinion – might be




thought to offer a different prediction: that policy will tend to satisfy citizens’ underlying needs




and values, rather than corresponding with their current policy preferences.8 We cannot test this




prediction because we do not have – and cannot easily imagine how to obtain – good data on




individuals’ deep, underlying interests or values, as opposed to their expressed policy




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 6




6




preferences. But the evidence that collective policy preferences are generally rather stable over




time suggests that expressed collective policy preferences may not often diverge markedly from




subsequently manifested “latent” preferences. They may do so only under special circumstances,




such as economic recessions or disastrous wars.9 If so, the electoral-reward-and-punishment




type of democratic theory, too, predicts that most of the time public policy will respond to the




current policy preferences of the average citizen.




Economic Elite Domination. A quite different theoretical tradition argues that U.S.




policy making is dominated by individuals who have substantial economic resources, i.e. high




levels of income and/or wealth – including, but not limited to, ownership of business firms.




Not all “elite theories” share this focus. Some emphasize social status or institutional




position – such as the occupancy of key managerial roles in corporations, or top-level positions




in political parties, in the executive, legislative, or judicial branches of government, or in the




highest ranks of the military. Some elite theories postulate an amalgam of elites, defined by




combinations of social status, economic resources, and institutional positions, who achieve a




degree of unity through common backgrounds, coinciding interests, and social interactions.




For example, C. Wright Mills’ important book, The Power Elite, offers a rather nuanced




account of how U.S. social, economic, political, and military elites have historically alternated in




different configurations of dominance. Mills noted that his elites derived in substantial




proportions from the upper classes, including the very rich and corporate executives, but their




elite status was not defined by their wealth.10 Our focus here is on theories that emphasize the




policy-making importance of economic elites.




Analyses of U.S. politics centered on economic elites go back at least to Charles Beard,




who maintained that a chief aim of the framers of the U.S. Constitution was to protect private




property, favoring the economic interests of wealthy merchants and plantation owners rather than




the interests of the then-majority small farmers, laborers, and craft workers. A landmark work in




this tradition is G. William Domhoff’s detailed account of how elites (working through




foundations, think-tanks, and an “opinion-shaping apparatus,” as well as through the lobbyists




and politicians they finance) may dominate key issues in U.S. policy making despite the




existence of democratic elections. Philip A. Burch has exhaustively chronicled the economic




backgrounds of federal government officials through American history. Thomas Ferguson’s




analysis of the political importance of “major investors” might be seen as a theory of economic




elites. Most recently, Jeffrey Winters has posited a comparative theory of “Oligarchy,” in which




the wealthiest citizens – even in a “civil oligarchy” like the United States – dominate policy




concerning crucial issues of wealth- and income-protection.11




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 7




7




Our third and fourth theoretical traditions posit that public policy generally reflects the




outcome of struggle among organized interest groups and business firms.12




Majoritarian Pluralism. The roots of what we can characterize as theories of




“majoritarian” interest group pluralism go back to James Madison’s Federalist Paper #10, which




analyzed politics in terms of “factions” -- a somewhat fuzzy concept that apparently




encompassed political parties and even popular majorities, as well as what we would today




consider organized interest groups, business firms, and industrial sectors. Madison argued that




struggles among the diverse factions that would be found in an extensive republic would lead to




policies more or less representative of the needs and interests of the citizenry as a whole – or at




least would tend to defeat “tyrannical” policies, including the much-feared issuance of




inflationary paper money that might cater to local majority factions of farmer-debtors but be




costly to merchant creditors.13




In the twentieth century, Arthur Bentley’s The Process of Government and then David




Truman’s monumental The Governmental Process put groups at the center of political analysis,




laying out a detailed picture of how organized interest groups might get their way. Truman




offered a comprehensive and still-interesting catalogue of lobbying techniques and other




methods of group influence. He also added an ingenious gloss to Madison that tends to increase




both the plausibility and the normative appeal of majoritarian interest group pluralism: the




assertion that all interests have at least a minimum of influence in group-dominated policy




making, because policy makers must (in order to avoid subsequent punishment) heed all




“potential” groups that would form if their interests were trampled upon.14




Robert Dahl’s analysis of New Haven city politics was Madisonian or Truman-like in its




insistence that many (all?) diverse interests were represented, though Dahl focused as much on




active members of the general public as on organized groups. Dahl’s analyses of American




politics in terms of “polyarchy” or “pluralist democracy” also come close to our ideal type of




majoritarian pluralist theory, since they imply that the wants or needs of the average citizen tend




to be reasonably well served by the outcomes of interest group struggle. Several contemporary




analysts of interest group politics likewise appear to accept (at least implicitly) a picture of group




struggle that results in more or less majoritarian results.15




A major challenge to majoritarian pluralist theories, however, is posed by Mancur




Olson’s argument that collective action by large, dispersed sets of individuals with individually




small but collectively large interests tends to be prevented by the “free rider” problem. Barring




special circumstances (selective incentives, byproducts, coercion), individuals who would benefit




from collective action may have no incentive to personally form or join an organized group. If




everyone thinks this way and lets George do it, the job is not likely to get done. This reasoning




suggests that Truman’s “potential groups” may in fact be unlikely to form, even if millions of




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 8




8




peoples’ interests are neglected or harmed by government. Aware of the collective action




problem, officials may feel free to ignore much of the population and act against the interests of




the average citizen.16




Biased Pluralism. Olson’s argument points toward an important variant line of thinking




within the pluralist tradition: theories of “biased” pluralism, which posit struggles among an




unrepresentative universe of interest groups – characterized by E.E. Schattschneider as a




heavenly chorus with an “upper-class accent,” and more recently dubbed by Kay Lehman




Schlozman, Sidney Verba, and Henry Brady an “unheavenly chorus.” Theories of biased




pluralism generally argue that both the thrust of interest group conflict and the public policies




that result tend to tilt toward the wishes of corporations and business and professional




associations.17




Schattschneider suggested that policy outcomes vary with the “scope of conflict”: for




example, that business-oriented interest groups tend to prevail over ordinary citizens when the




scope is narrow and visibility is low. Grant McConnell added the idea that the actual




“constituencies” of policy implementers can consist of powerful groups. George Stigler




(articulating what some economists have scorned as “Chicago Marxism”) analyzed the politics of




regulation in terms of biased pluralism: the capture of regulators by the regulated. Charles




Lindblom outlined a number of ways – including the “privileged position” of business – in which




business firms and their associations influence public policy. Thomas Ferguson has posited an




“investment theory” of politics in which “major investors” – especially representatives of




particular industrial sectors – fund political parties in order to get policies that suit their




economic interests. Fred Block’s “neo-Polanyian” analysis emphasizes groups. Jacob Hacker’s




and Paul Pierson’s analysis of “winner-take-all-politics,” which emphasizes the power of the




finance industry, can be seen as a recent contribution to the literature of biased pluralism.18




Marxist and neo-Marxist theories of the capitalist state hold that economic classes – and




particularly the bourgeoisie, the owners of the means of production -- dominate policy making




and cause the state to serve their material interests. As the Communist Manifesto put it, “The




bourgeoisie has...conquered for itself, in the modern representative State, exclusive political




sway. The executive of the modern State is but a committee for managing the common affairs of




the whole bourgeoisie.”19 We cannot precisely test the predictions of such theories, because we




lack good measures of policy preferences by economic class. (In Marxist theory, neither income




nor wealth accurately signals class position.) We can note, however, that certain




“instrumentalist” Marxist theories, including the important version put forth by Ralph Miliband,




make predictions resembling those of theories of Biased Pluralism: that interest groups and




corporations representing “large scale business” tend to prevail.20




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 9




9




As to empirical evidence concerning interest groups, it is well established that organized




groups regularly lobby and fraternize with public officials; move through revolving doors




between public and private employment; provide self-serving information to officials; draft




legislation; and spend a great deal of money on election campaigns.21 Moreover, in harmony




with theories of biased pluralism, the evidence clearly indicates that most U.S. interest groups




and lobbyists represent business firms or professionals. Relatively few represent the poor or




even the economic interests of ordinary workers, particularly now that the U.S. labor movement




has become so weak.22




But do interest groups actually influence policy? Numerous case studies have detailed




instances in which all but the most dedicated skeptic is likely to perceive interest group influence




at work. A leading classic remains Schattschneider’s analysis of the 1928 enactment of the




Smoot-Hawley tariff, an astounding orgy of pork-barrel politics.23 Still, many quantitatively




oriented political scientists seem to ignore or dismiss such non-quantitative evidence. There




have also been some efforts (particularly during the Cold War era, when unflattering depictions




of U.S. politics may have been thought unpatriotic) to demonstrate that interest groups have no




influence on policy at all. Raymond Bauer, Ithiel Pool, and Lewis Anthony Dexter argued that




business had little or no effect on the renewal of reciprocal trade authority. Lester Milbrath,




having conducted interviews with lobbyists and members of Congress, rated lobbyists’ influence




as very low. More recently, Fred McChesney has made the ingenious argument that campaign




contributions from interest groups may not represent quid pro quo bribery attempts by groups,




but instead result from extortion by politicians who threaten to harm the groups’ interests.24




Very few studies have offered quantitative evidence concerning the impact of interest




groups based on a number of different public policies. Important exceptions include the work of




Mark Smith and that of Frank Baumgartner, Jeffrey Berry, Marie Hojnacki, David Kimball, and




Beth Leech.25




Mark Smith examined 2,364 “business unity” issues – over a period of four decades – on




which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (arguably a reasonable proxy for business groups as a




whole, on this particular set of issues where most businesses agreed) took a public stand for or




against. He then calculated six measures of the Chamber’s annual rate of “success” at getting the




action or inaction it favored from Congress.26 The Chamber’s average success rate in terms of




proportion of bills enacted or defeated appears to have been fairly high,27 but Smith did not argue




that such success necessarily demonstrates influence. (A batting-average approach to influence




would have to assume that stand-taking is unrelated to expectations of success. Further, in order




to gauge business’s independent impact and avoid spurious results, data on stands taken by other




actors would need to be included as well.) Instead, Smith devoted most of his effort to analyzing




the over-time correlates of high or low success, such as variations in the public “mood” and in




the partisan composition of Congress.




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 10




10




Frank Baumgartner and his colleagues, in their meticulous examination of 98 cases of




congressional policy making in which interest groups were active, investigated whether the




magnitude of group resources that were deployed was related to outcomes across those cases. In




their multivariate analyses, Baumgartner et al. found a modest tendency for policy outcomes to




favor the side that enjoyed greater resources (PAC contributions, lobbying expenditures,




membership size, etc.).28




Prior to the availability of the data set that we analyze here, no one we are aware of has




succeeded at assessing interest group influence over a comprehensive set of issues, while taking




into account the impact of either the public at large or economic elites – let alone analyzing all




three types of potential influences simultaneously.




Testing Theoretical Predictions




What makes possible an empirical effort of this sort is the existence of a unique data set,




compiled over many years by one of us (Gilens) for a different but related purpose: for




estimating the influence upon public policy of “affluent” citizens, poor citizens, and those in the




middle of the income distribution.




Gilens and a small army of research assistants29 gathered data on a large, diverse set of




policy cases: 1,779 instances between 1981 and 2002 in which a national survey of the general




public asked a favor/oppose question about a proposed policy change. A total of 1,923 cases met




four criteria: dichotomous pro/con responses, specificity about policy, relevance to federal




government decisions, and categorical rather than conditional phrasing. Of those 1,923 original




cases, 1,779 cases also met the criteria of providing income breakdowns for respondents, not




involving a Constitutional amendment or a Supreme Court ruling (which might entail a quite




different policy making process), and involving a clear, as opposed to partial or ambiguous,




actual presence or absence of policy change. These 1,779 cases do not constitute a sample from




the universe of all possible policy alternatives (this is hardly conceivable), but we see them as




particularly relevant to assessing the public’s influence on policy. The included policies are not




restricted to the narrow Washington “policy agenda.” At the same time – since they were seen




as worth asking poll questions about – they tend to concern matters of relatively high salience,




about which it is plausible that average citizens may have real opinions and may exert some




political influence.30




For each case, Gilens used the original survey data to assess responses by income level.




In order to cope with varying income categories across surveys, he employed a quadratic logistic




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 11




11




regression technique to estimate the opinions of respondents at the 10th income percentile (quite




poor), the 50th percentile (median), and the 90th percentile (fairly affluent).31




Here we use these policy preference data to measure – imperfectly, but, we believe,




satisfactorily – two independent variables posited as major influences upon policy making in the




theoretical traditions discussed above.




Policy preferences at the 50th income percentile – that is, the preferences of the medianincome




survey respondent – work quite well as measures of the preferences of the average




citizen (or, more precisely, the median non-institutionalized adult American), which are central




to theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy.32 In all cases in which the relationship between




income and preferences is monotonic, and in all cases in which there is no systematic




relationship at all between the two, the preferences of the median-income respondent are




identical to those of the median-preference respondent. In the remaining cases the two are very




close to each other.33




We believe that the preferences of “affluent” Americans at the 90th income percentile can




usefully be taken as proxies for the opinions of wealthy or very-high-income Americans, and can




be used to test the central predictions of Economic Elite theories. To be sure, people at the 90th




income percentile are neither very rich nor very elite; in 2012 dollars, Gilens’ “affluent”




respondents received only about $146,000 in annual household income. To the extent that their




policy preferences differ from those of average-income citizens, however, we would argue that




there are likely to be similar but bigger differences between average-income citizens and the




truly wealthy.




Some evidence for this proposition comes from the 2011 Cooperative Congressional




Election Study.34 Based on 13 policy preference questions asked on this survey, the preferences




of the top 2% of income earners (a group that might be thought “truly wealthy”) are much more




highly correlated with the preferences of the top 10% of earners than with the preferences of the




average survey respondent (r=.91 vs. .69).35 Thus, the views of our moderately high-income




“affluent” respondents appear to capture useful information about the views of the truly wealthy.




In any case, the imprecision that results from use of our “affluent” proxy is likely to




produce underestimates of the impact of economic elites on policy making. If we find




substantial effects upon policy even when using this imperfect measure, therefore, it will be




reasonable to infer that the impact upon policy of truly wealthy citizens is still greater.36




In order to measure interest group preferences and actions, we would ideally like to use




an index of the sort that Baumgartner and his colleagues developed for their ninety-eight policy




issues: an index assessing the total resources brought to bear by all major interest groups that




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 12




12




took one side or the other on each of our 1,779 issues. But it is not feasible to construct such an




index for all our cases; this would require roughly twenty times as much work as did the major




effort made by the Baumgartner research team on their cases. Fortunately, however,




Baumgartner et al. found that a simple proxy for their index – the number of reputedly




“powerful” interest groups (from among groups appearing over the years in Fortune magazine’s




“Power 25” lists) that favored a given policy change, minus the number that opposed it –




correlated quite substantially in their cases with the full interest group index (r=0.73).37




Gilens, using a modified version of this simple count of the number of “powerful”




interest groups favoring (minus those opposing) each proposed policy change, developed a




measure of Net Interest Group Alignment. To the set of groups on the “Power 25” lists (which




seemed to neglect certain major business interests) he added ten key industries that had reported




the highest lobbying expenditures. (For the final list of included industries and interest groups,




see Appendix 1.) For each of the 1,779 instances of proposed policy change, Gilens and his




assistants drew upon multiple sources to code all engaged interest groups as “strongly




favorable,” “somewhat favorable,” “somewhat unfavorable,” or “strongly unfavorable” to the




change. He then combined the numbers of groups on each side of a given issue, weighting




“somewhat” favorable or somewhat unfavorable positions at half the magnitude of “strongly”




favorable or strongly unfavorable positions. In order to allow for the likelihood of diminishing




returns as the net number of groups on a given side increases (an increase from 10 to 11 groups




likely matters less than a jump from 1 to 2 does), he took the logarithms of the number of pro




groups and the number of con groups before subtracting. Thus:




Net Interest Group Alignment = ln(# Strongly Favor + [0.5 * # Somewhat Favor] + 1) - ln(#




Strongly Oppose + [0.5 * # Somewhat Oppose] + 1).38




Below we also report results for comparable group alignment indices that were computed




separately for the mass-based and for the business-oriented sets of groups listed in Appendix 1.




Our dependent variable is a measure of whether or not the policy change proposed in




each survey question was actually adopted, within four years after the question was asked. (It




turns out that most of the action occurred within two years). Of course there was nothing easy




about measuring the presence or absence of policy change for each of 1,779 different cases;




Gilens and his research assistants spent many hours poring over news accounts, government




data, Congressional Quarterly publications, academic papers and the like.39




In order to test among our theoretical traditions, we begin by considering all organized




interest groups together, not distinguishing between mass-based and business-oriented groups.




Within a single statistical model, we estimate the independent impact upon our dependent




variable (policy change) of each of three independent variables: the average citizen’s policy




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 13




13




preferences (preferences at the 50th income percentile); the policy preferences of economic elites




(measured by policy preferences at the 90th income percentile); and the stands of interest groups




(the Net Interest Group Alignment Index).




Later, in order to distinguish clearly between Majoritarian Pluralism and Biased




Pluralism, we will use two separate measures of net interest group alignment, one involving only




mass-based interest groups and the other limited to business and professional groups. The main




hypotheses of interest, summarized in Table 1, follow fairly straightforwardly from our




discussion of our four ideal types of theory.




(INSERT TABLE 1 ABOUT HERE)




In their pure form, theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy (for example, rational




models of electoral competition that include no societal actors other than average citizens),




predict that the influence upon policy of average citizens is positive, significant, and substantial,




while the influence of other actors is not.




Theories of Economic Elite Domination predict positive, significant, and substantial




influence upon policy by economic elites. Most such theories allow for some (though not much)




independent influence by average citizens, e.g. on non-economic, social issues. Many also allow




for some independent influence by business interest groups – and therefore probably by interest




groups taken as a whole – though their emphasis is on wealthy individuals.




In general, theories of interest group pluralism predict that only organized interest groups




will have positive, significant, and substantial effects upon public policy. Influence proceeds




from groups, not from wealthy (or other) individuals. Depending upon the type of pluralist




theory, average citizens may or may not be well represented through organized groups, but they




do not have a great deal of independent influence on their own.




Theories of Majoritarian Pluralism predict that the stands of organized interest groups, all




taken together, rather faithfully represent (that is, are positively and substantially correlated with)




the preferences of average citizens. But since most political influence proceeds through groups,




a multivariate analysis that includes both interest group alignments and citizens’ preferences




should show far more independent influence by the groups than the citizens. Truman’s idea of




“potential groups” does, however, leave room for some direct influence by average citizens.




Theories of Biased Pluralism, too, see organized interest groups as having much more




influence than average citizens or individual economic elites. But they predict that businessoriented




groups play the major role.




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 14




14




Recognizing the complexity of the political world, we must also acknowledge the




possibility that more than one of these theoretical traditions has some truth to it:




that several – even all – of our sets of actors may have substantial, positive, independent




influence on public policy. And we must consider the null hypothesis that none of these




theoretical traditions correctly describes even part of what goes on in American politics,




Influence upon Policy of Average Citizens, Economic Elites, and Interest Groups




Before we proceed further, it is important to note that even if one of our predictor




variables is found (when controlling for the others) to have no independent impact on policy at




all, it does not follow that the actors whose preferences are reflected by that variable – average




citizens, economic elites, or organized interest groups of one sort or another – always “lose” in




policy decisions. Policy making is not necessarily a zero-sum game among these actors. When




one set of actors wins, others may win as well, if their preferences are positively correlated with




each other.




It turns out, in fact, that the preferences of average citizens are positively and fairly




highly correlated, across issues, with the preferences of economic elites (see Table 2.) Rather




often, average citizens and affluent citizens (our proxy for economic elites) want the same things




from government. This bivariate correlation affects how we should interpret our later




multivariate findings in terms of “winners” and “losers.” It also suggests a reason why serious




scholars might keep adhering to both the Majoritarian Electoral Democracy and the Economic




Elite Domination theoretical traditions, even if one of them may be dead wrong in terms of




causal impact. Ordinary citizens, for example, might often be observed to “win” (that is, to get




their preferred policy outcomes) even if they had no independent effect whatsoever on policy




making, if elites (with whom they often agree) actually prevail.




(INSERT TABLE 2 ABOUT HERE)




But net interest group stands are not substantially correlated with the preferences of




average citizens. Taking all interest groups together, the index of net interest group alignment




correlates only a non-significant .04 with average citizens’ preferences! (See Table 2.) This




casts grave doubt on David Truman’s and others’ argument that organized interest groups tend to




do a good job of representing the population as a whole. Indeed, as Table 2 indicates, even the




net alignments of the groups we have categorized as “mass-based” correlate with average




citizens’ preferences only at the very modest (though statistically significant) level of .12.




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 15




15




Some particular U.S. membership organizations – especially the AARP and labor unions




– do tend to favor the same policies as average citizens. But other membership groups take




stands that are unrelated (pro-life and pro-choice groups) or negatively related (gun owners) to




what the average American wants.40 Some membership groups may reflect the views of




corporate backers or their most affluent constituents. Others focus on issues on which the public




is fairly evenly divided. Whatever the reasons, all mass-based groups taken together simply do




not add up, in aggregate, to good representatives of the citizenry as a whole. Business-oriented




groups do even worse, with a modest negative over-all correlation of -.10.




Nor do we find an association between the preferences of economic elites and the




alignments of either mass-based or business oriented groups. The latter finding, which surprised




us, may reflect profit-making motives among businesses as contrasted with broader ideological




views among elite individuals. For example, economic elites tend to prefer lower levels of




government spending on practically everything, while business groups and specific industries




frequently lobby for spending in areas from which they stand to gain. Thus pharmaceutical,




hospital, insurance, and medical organizations have lobbied for more spending on health care;




defense contractors for weapons systems; the American Farm Bureau for agricultural subsidies,




and so on.




Initial tests of influences on policy making. The first three columns of Table 3 report




bivariate results, in which each of three independent variables (taking all interest groups




together, for now) is modeled separately as the sole predictor of policy change. Just as previous




literature suggests, each of three broad theoretical traditions – Majoritarian Electoral Democracy,




Economic Elite Domination, and interest group pluralism – seems to gain support. When taken




separately, each independent variable – the preferences of average citizens, the preferences of




economic elites, and the net alignments of organized interest groups – is strongly, positively, and




quite significantly related to policy change. Little wonder that each theoretical tradition has its




strong adherents.




(INSERT TABLE 3 ABOUT HERE)




But the picture changes markedly when all three independent variables are included in




the multivariate Model 4 and tested against each other. The estimated impact of average




citizens’ preferences drops precipitously, to a non-significant, near-zero level. Clearly the




median citizen or “median voter” at the heart of theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy




does not do well when put up against economic elites and organized interest groups. The chief




predictions of pure theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy can be decisively rejected. Not




only do ordinary citizens not have uniquely substantial power over policy decisions; they have




little or no independent influence on policy at all.




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 16




16




By contrast, economic elites are estimated to have a quite substantial, highly significant,




independent impact on policy. This does not mean that theories of Economic Elite Domination




are wholly upheld, since our results indicate that individual elites must share their policy




influence with organized interest groups. Still, economic elites stand out as quite influential –




more so than any other set of actors studied here – in the making of U.S. public policy.




Similarly, organized interest groups (all taken together, for now) are found to have




substantial independent influence on policy. Again, the predictions of pure theories of interest




group pluralism are not wholly upheld, since organized interest groups must share influence with




economically elite individuals. But interest group alignments are estimated to have a large,




positive, highly significant impact upon public policy.




These results suggest that reality is best captured by mixed theories in which both




individual economic elites and organized interest groups (including corporations, largely owned




and controlled by wealthy elites) play a substantial part in affecting public policy, but the general




public has little or no independent influence.




The rather low explanatory power of all three independent variables taken together (with




an R-squared of just .074 in Model 4) may partly result from the limitations of our proxy




measures, particularly with respect to economic elites (since our “affluent” proxy is admittedly




imperfect) and perhaps with respect to interest groups (since only a small fraction of politically




active groups are included in our measure). Again, the implication of these limitations in our data




is that interest groups and economic elites actually wield more policy influence than our




estimates indicate. But it is also possible that there may exist important explanatory factors




outside the three theoretical traditions addressed in this analysis. Or there may be a great deal of




idiosyncrasy in policy outputs, or variation across kinds of issues, that would be difficult for any




general model to capture. With our present data we cannot tell.




The precise magnitudes of the coefficients reported in Table 3 are difficult to interpret




because of our logit transformation of independent variables. A helpful way to assess the




relative influence of each set of actors is to compare how the predicted probability of policy




change alters when moving from one point to another on their distributions of policy




dispositions, while holding other actors’ preferences constant at their neutral points (50 percent




favorable for average citizens and for economic elites, and a net interest group alignment score




of 0.) These changing probabilities, based on the coefficients in table 2, are line-graphed in




Figure 1 along with bar graphs of the underlying preference distributions.




(INSERT FIGURE 1 ABOUT HERE)




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 17




17




Clearly, when one holds constant net interest group alignments and the preferences of




affluent Americans, it makes very little difference what the general public thinks. The




probability of policy change is nearly the same (around 0.3) whether a tiny minority or a large




majority of average citizens favor a proposed policy change (see the top panel of Figure 1).




By contrast – again with other actors held constant – a proposed policy change with low




support among economically elite Americans (one-out-of-five in favor) is adopted only about 18




percent of the time, while a proposed change with high support (four-out-of-five in favor) is




adopted about 45 percent of the time. Similarly, when support for policy change is low among




interest groups (with five groups strongly opposed and none in favor) the probability of that




policy change occurring is only .16, but the probability rises to .47 when interest groups are




strongly favorable (see the bottom two panels of Figure 1.)41




When both interest groups and affluent Americans oppose a policy it has an even lower




likelihood of being adopted (these proposed policies consist primarily of tax increases.) At the




other extreme, high levels of support among both interest groups and affluent Americans




increases the probability of adopting a policy change, but a strong status quo bias remains




evident. Policies with strong support (as defined above) among both groups are only adopted




about 56 percent of the time (strongly favored policies in our data set that failed include




proposed cuts in taxes, increases in tax exemptions, increased educational spending for K-12,




college support, and proposals during the Clinton administration to add a prescription drug




benefit to Medicare).




Majoritarian Electoral Democracy. What are we to make of findings that seem to go




against volumes of persuasive theorizing and much quantitative research, by asserting that the




average citizen or the “median voter” has little or no independent influence on public policy?




As noted, our evidence does not indicate that in U.S. policy making the average citizen




always loses out. Since the preferences of ordinary citizens tend to be positively correlated with




the preferences of economic elites, ordinary citizens often win the policies they want, even if




they are more or less coincidental beneficiaries rather than causes of the victory. There is not




necessarily any contradiction at all between our findings and past bivariate findings of a roughly




two-thirds correspondence between actual policy and the wishes of the general public, or of a




close correspondence between the liberal/conservative “mood” of the public and changes in




policy making.42 Our main point concerns causal inference: if interpreted in terms of actual




causal impact, the prior findings appear to be largely or wholly spurious.




Further, the issues about which economic elites and ordinary citizens disagree reflect




important matters, including many aspects of trade restrictions, tax policy, corporate regulation,




abortion, and school prayer, so that the resulting political losses by ordinary citizens are not




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 18




18




trivial. Moreover, we must remember that in our analyses the preferences of the affluent are




serving as proxies for those of truly wealthy Americans, who may well have more political clout




than the affluent, and who tend to have policy preferences that differ more markedly from those




of the average citizens. Thus even rather slight measured differences between preferences of the




affluent and the median citizen may signal situations in which economic elites want something




quite different from most Americans and generally get their way.




A final point: even in a bivariate, descriptive sense, our evidence indicates that the




responsiveness of the U.S. political system when the general public wants government action is




severely limited. Because of the impediments to majority rule that were deliberately built into




the U.S. political system – federalism, separation of powers, bicameralism – together with




further impediments due to anti-majoritarian congressional rules and procedures, the system has




a substantial status quo bias. Thus when popular majorities favor the status quo, opposing a




given policy change, they are likely to get their way; but when a majority – even a very large




majority – of the public favors change, it is not likely to get what it wants. In our 1,779 policy




cases, narrow pro-change majorities of the public got the policy changes they wanted only about




30% of the time. More strikingly, even overwhelmingly large pro-change majorities, with 80%




of the public favoring a policy change, got that change only about 43% of the time.




In any case, normative advocates of populistic democracy may not be enthusiastic about




democracy by coincidence, in which ordinary citizens get what they want from government only




when they happen to agree with elites or interest groups that are really calling the shots. When




push comes to shove, actual influence matters.




Economic Elites. Economic Elite Domination theories do rather well in our analysis,




even though our findings probably understate the political influence of elites. Our measure of




the preferences of wealthy or elite Americans – though useful, and the best we could generate for




a large set of policy cases – is probably less consistent with the relevant preferences than are our




measures of the views of ordinary citizens or the alignments of engaged interest groups. Yet we




found substantial estimated effects even when using this imperfect measure. The real-world




impact of elites upon public policy may be still greater.




What we cannot do with these data is distinguish definitively among different versions of




elite theories. We cannot be sure whether we are capturing the political influence of the




wealthiest Americans (the top 1% of wealth-holders? the top 1/10th of 1%?), or, conceivably, the




less affluent but more numerous citizens around the 90th income percentile whose preferences are




directly gauged by our measure.




In any case, we need to reiterate that our data concern economic elites. Income and




wealth tend to be positively correlated with other dimensions of elite status, such as high social




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 19




19




standing and the occupancy of high-level institutional positions, but they are not the same thing.




We cannot say anything directly about the non-economic aspects of certain elite theories,




especially those that emphasize actors who may not be highly paid, such as public officials and




political party activists.




Organized Interest Groups. Our findings of substantial influence by interest groups is




particularly striking because little or no previous research has been able to estimate the extent of




group influence while controlling for the preferences of other key non-governmental actors. Our




evidence clearly indicates that – controlling for the influence of both the average citizen and




economic elites – organized interest groups have a very substantial independent impact upon




public policy. Theories of interest group pluralism gain a strong measure of empirical support.




Here, too, the imperfections of our measure of interest group alignment (though probably




less severe than in the case of economically elite individuals) suggest, a fortiori, that the actual




influence of organized groups may be even greater than we have found. If we had data on the




activity of the thousands of groups not included in our net interest group alignment measure, we




might find many cases in which a group (perhaps unopposed by any other groups) got its way.




This might be particularly true of narrow issues like special tax breaks or subsidies aimed at just




one or two business firms, which are underrepresented in our set of relatively high-salience




policies. (Our data set includes only policies thought to be important enough for a national




opinion survey to ask a question about it.)




An important feature of interest group influence is that it is often deployed against




proposed policy changes. On the 1,357 proposed policy changes for which at least one interest




group was coded as favoring or opposing change, in only 36% of the cases did most groups favor




change, while in 55% of the cases most groups opposed change. (The remaining cases involved




equal numbers for and against.)43




Distinguishing between Majoritarian Pluralism and Biased Pluralism. Can we say




anything further about whether processes of interest group influence more closely resemble




Truman-like, broadly representative Majoritarian Pluralism, or Schattschneider-style “Biased”




Pluralism, in which business interests, professional associations, and corporations play the




dominant part?




We have already reported several findings that cast serious doubt upon Majoritarian




Pluralism. If the net results of interest group struggle were to help average citizens get their way




– with organized groups perhaps representing citizens more effectively than politically




inattentive Americans could do for themselves – we would expect that the net alignment of




interest groups would be positively and strongly correlated with the policy preferences of the




average citizen. But we know from Table 2 that they are not in fact significantly correlated at




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 20




20




all. Interest group alignments are almost totally unrelated to the preferences of average citizens.




Moreover, there is no indication that officials’ anticipation of reactions from “potential groups”




brings policies in line with what citizens want.44 Empirical support for Majoritarian Pluralism




looks very shaky, indeed. We also know that the composition of the U.S. interest group universe




is heavily tilted toward corporations and business and professional associations.45 This fact




certainly points toward Biased rather than Majoritarian Pluralism.




To go a step further, theories of Majoritarian Pluralism predict relatively more




independent influence upon policy by mass-based interest groups than do theories of Biased




Pluralism. It may be useful, therefore, to distinguish between mass-based and business-oriented




interest groups and to investigate how much policy influence each group actually has.




Accordingly, we computed separate net-interest-group-alignment indices for businessoriented




and for mass-based groups (see Appendix 1 for lists of each) and included both of them




in a new multivariate analysis, along with the preferences of average citizens and economic elites




– dropping our previous measure of the net alignment of all interest groups.




The results of this analysis are given in Table 4. Clearly the predictions of Biased




Pluralism theories fare substantially better than those of Majoritarian Pluralism theories. The




influence coefficients for both mass-based and business-oriented interest groups are positive and




highly significant statistically, but the coefficient for business groups is nearly twice as large as




that for the mass groups. Moreover, when we restricted this same analysis to the smaller set of




issues upon which both types of groups took positions – that is, when we considered only cases




in which business-based and mass-based interest groups were directly engaged with each other –




the contrast between the estimated impact of the two types of groups was even greater.46




The advantage of business-oriented groups in shaping policy outcomes reflects their




numerical advantage within the interest group universe in Washington, and also the infrequency




with which business groups are found simultaneously on both sides of a proposed policy




change.47 Both these factors (numerical dominance and relative cohesion) play a part in the much




stronger correlation of the overall interest group alignment index with business groups than with




mass-oriented groups (.96 vs. .47, table 2). The importance of business groups’ numerical




advantage is also revealed when we rescale our measures of business and mass-oriented interest




group alignments to reflect the differing number of groups in each of these categories. Using this




rescaled measure, a parallel analysis to that in table 4 shows that on a group-for-group basis the




average individual business group and the average mass-oriented group appears to be about




equally influential. The greater total influence of business groups in our analysis results chiefly




from the fact that more of them are generally engaged on each issue (roughly twice as many, on




average), not that a single business-oriented group has more clout on average than a single massbased




group.48




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 21




21




(INSERT TABLE 4 ABOUT HERE)




Taken as a whole, then, our evidence strongly indicates that theories of Biased Pluralism




are more descriptive of political reality than are theories of Majoritarian Pluralism. It is simply




not the case that a host of diverse, broadly based interest groups take policy stands – and bring




about actual policies – that reflect what the general public wants. Interest groups as a whole do




not seek the same policies as average citizens do. “Potential groups” do not fill the gap.




Relatively few mass-based interest groups are active, they do not (in the aggregate) represent the




public very well, and they have less collective impact on policy than do business-oriented groups




– whose stands tend to be negatively related to the preferences of average citizens. These




business groups are far more numerous and active; they spend much more money; and they tend




to get their way.




Table 4 also confirms our earlier findings about economic elites and median voters.




When the alignments of business-oriented and mass-based interest groups are included




separately in a multivariate model, average citizens’ preferences continue to have essentially




zero estimated impact upon policy change, while economic elites are still estimated to have a




very large, positive, independent impact.




American Democracy?




Each of our four theoretical traditions (Majoritarian Electoral Democracy, Economic




Elite Domination, Majoritarian Interest Group Pluralism, and Biased Pluralism) emphasizes




different sets of actors as critical in determining U.S. policy outcomes, and each tradition has




engendered a large empirical literature that seems to show a particular set of actors to be highly




influential. Yet nearly all the empirical evidence has been essentially bivariate. Until very




recently it has not been possible to test these theories against each other in a systematic,




quantitative fashion.




By directly pitting the predictions of ideal-type theories against each other within a single




statistical model (using a unique data set that includes imperfect but useful measures of the key




independent variables for nearly two thousand policy issues), we have been able to produce some




striking findings. One is the nearly total failure of “median voter” and other Majoritarian




Electoral Democracy theories. When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of




organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to




have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 22




22




The failure of theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy is all the more striking




because it goes against the likely effects of the limitations of our data. The preferences of




ordinary citizens were measured more directly than our other independent variables, yet they are




estimated to have the least effect.




Nor do organized interest groups substitute for direct citizen influence, by embodying




citizens’ will and ensuring that their wishes prevail in the fashion postulated by theories of




Majoritarian Pluralism. Interest groups do have substantial independent impacts on policy, and a




few groups (particularly labor unions) represent average citizens’ views reasonably well. But the




interest group system as a whole does not. Over-all, net interest group alignments are not




significantly related to the preferences of average citizens. The net alignments of the most




influential, business oriented groups are negatively related to the average citizen’s wishes. So




existing interest groups do not serve effectively as transmission belts for the wishes of the




populace as a whole. “Potential groups” do not take up the slack, either, since average citizens’




preferences have little or no independent impact on policy after existing groups’ stands are




controlled for.




Furthermore, the preferences of economic elites (as measured by our proxy, the




preferences of “affluent” citizens) have far more independent impact upon policy change than




the preferences of average citizens do. To be sure, this does not mean that ordinary citizens




always lose out; they fairly often get the policies they favor, but only because those policies




happen also to be preferred by the economically elite citizens who wield the actual influence.




Of course our findings speak most directly to the “first face” of power: the ability of




actors to shape policy outcomes on contested issues. But they also reflect – to some degree, at




least – the “second face” of power: the ability to shape the agenda of issues that policy makers




consider. The set of policy alternatives that we analyze is considerably broader than the set




discussed seriously by policy makers or brought to a vote in Congress, and our alternatives are




(on average) more popular among the general public than among interest groups. Thus the fate




of these policies can reflect policy makers’ refusing to consider them rather than considering but




rejecting them. (From our data we cannot distinguish between the two.) Our results speak less




clearly to the “third face” of power: the ability of elites to shape the public’s preferences. 49 We




know that interest groups and policy makers themselves often devote considerable effort to




shaping opinion. If they are successful, this might help explain the high correlation we find




between elite and mass preferences. But it cannot have greatly inflated our estimate of average




citizens’ influence on policy making, which is near zero.




What do our findings say about democracy in America? They certainly constitute




troubling news for advocates of “populistic” democracy, who want governments to respond




primarily or exclusively to the policy preferences of their citizens. In the United States, our




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 23




23




findings indicate, the majority does not rule -- at least not in the causal sense of actually




determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or




with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias




built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy




change, they generally do not get it.




A possible objection to populistic democracy is that average citizens are inattentive to




politics and ignorant about public policy; why should we worry if their poorly informed




preferences do not influence policy making? Perhaps economic elites and interest group leaders




enjoy greater policy expertise than the average citizen does. Perhaps they know better which




policies will benefit everyone, and perhaps they seek the common good, rather than selfish ends,




when deciding which policies to support.




But we tend to doubt it. We believe instead that – collectively – ordinary citizens




generally know their own values and interests pretty well, and that their expressed policy




preferences are worthy of respect.50 Moreover, we are not so sure about the informational




advantages of elites. Yes, detailed policy knowledge tends to rise with income and status.




Surely wealthy Americans and corporate executives tend to know a lot about tax and regulatory




policies that directly affect them. But how much do they know about the human impact of Social




Security, Medicare, Food Stamps, or unemployment insurance, none of which is likely to be




crucial to their own well-being? Most important, we see no reason to think that informational




expertise is always accompanied by an inclination to transcend one's own interests or a




determination to work for the common good.




All in all, we believe that the public is likely to be a more certain guardian of its own




interests than any feasible alternative.




Leaving aside the difficult issue of divergent interests and motives, we would urge that




the superior wisdom of economic elites or organized interest groups should not simply be




assumed. It should be put to empirical test. New empirical research will be needed to pin down




precisely who knows how much, and what, about which public policies.




Our findings also point toward the need to learn more about exactly which economic




elites (the “merely affluent”? the top 1%? the top 0.01%?) have how much impact upon public




policy, and to what ends they wield their influence. Similar questions arise about the precise




extent of influence of particular sets of organized interest groups. And we need to know more




about the policy preferences and the political influence of various actors not considered here,




including political party activists, government officials, and other non-economic elites. We hope




that our work will encourage further exploration of these issues.




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 24




24




Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of




majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually




have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features




central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association,




and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe 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.




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 25




25




Table 1. Theoretical Predictions Concerning the Independent Influence of Sets of




Actors upon Policy Outcomes




Sets of Actors




All Mass Business




Average Economic Interest Interest Interest




Citizens Elites Groups Groups Groups




Theory (ideal type)




Majoritarian Y n n n n




Electoral




Democracy




________________________________________________________________________




Dominance by




Economic Elites y Y y n y




________________________________________________________________________




Majoritarian y n Y Y Y




Pluralism




________________________________________________________________________




Biased Pluralism n n y y Y




________________________________________________________________________




n: little or no independent influence




y: some independent influence




Y: substantial independent influence




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 26




26




Table 2. Correlations among Independent Variables




Average




citizens’




preferences




Economic




elites’




preferences




All




interest




groups




Mass public




interest




groups




Business




interest




groups




Average citizens’




preferences




Economic elites’ preferences




All interest groups




Mass public interest groups




Business interest groups




--




.78***




.04




.12***




-.10***




--




.05




.01




-.02




--




.47***




.96***




--




-.05




--




*** p<.001; n=1779.




Note: Entries are correlation coefficients corrected for measurement error as explained in




Appendix 2.




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 27




27




Table 3. Policy Outcomes and the Policy Preferences of Average Citizens, Economic




Elites, and Interest Groups




Model 1 Model 2 Model 3 Model 4




Preferences of




average citizens




Preferences of




economic elites




Alignment of




Interest groups




.64 (.08) ***




--




--




--




.81 (.08) ***




--




--




--




.59 (.09) ***




.03 (.08)




.76 (.08) ***




.56 (.09) ***




R-sq




.031




.049




.028




.074




***p<.001




Note: All predictors are scaled to range from 0 to 1. The dependent variable is the policy




outcome, coded 1 if the proposed policy change took place within four years of the survey




date and 0 if it did not. Predictors are the logits of the imputed percent of respondents at the




50th (“average citizens”) or 90th (“economic elites”) income percentile that favor the




proposed policy change, and the Net Interest Group Alignment Index described in the text.




Standard errors are asymptotically distribution-free, and all analyses reflect estimated




measurement error in the predictors, as described in Appendix 2. The standardized




coefficients for model 4 in this table are .01, .21, and .16 for average citizens, economic




elites, and interest groups, respectively. N=1779.




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 28




28




Table 4. The Separate Policy Impact of Business-oriented and Mass-based Interest Groups




Average citizens’ preferences




Economic elites’ preferences




Mass-based interest groups




Business interest groups




.05 (.08)




.78 (.08) ***




.24 (.07) ***




.43 (.08)***




N




R-sq




1,779




.07




***p<.001




Note: All predictors are scaled to range from 0 to 1. The dependent variable is the policy




outcome, coded 1 if the proposed policy change took place within four years of the survey




date and 0 if it did not. Predictors are the logits of the imputed percent of respondents at the




50th (“average citizens”) or 90th (“economic elites”) income percentile that favor the




proposed policy change, and the Net Interest Group Alignment Indices described in the text.




Standard errors are asymptotically distribution-free, and all analyses reflect estimated




measurement error in the predictors, as described in Appendix 2. N=1779.




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 29




29




Figure 1. Predicted probability of policy adoption (dark lines, left axes)




by policy disposition; the distribution of preferences (gray columns, right axes)




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 30




30




Appendix 1.




Business- and Mass-Based Interest Groups Included in Net Group Alignment Indices




Business and professional groups




Airlines




American Bankers Association




American Council of Life Insurance




American Farm Bureau Federation




American Hospital Association




American Medical Association




Association of Trial Lawyers




Automobile companies




Chamber of Commerce




Computer software and hardware




Credit Union National Association




Defense contractors




Electric companies




Health Insurance Association




Independent Insurance Agents of America




Motion Picture Association of America




National Association of Broadcasters




National Association of Home Builders




National Association of Manufacturers




National Association of Realtors




National Beer Wholesalers Association




National Federation of Independent Business




National Restaurant Association




Oil Companies




Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers




Recording Industry Association




Securities and investment companies




Telephone companies




Tobacco companies




Mass-based groups




AARP




AFL-CIO




American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees




American Israel Public Affairs Committee




American Legion




Christian Coalition




International Brotherhood of Teamsters




National Rifle Association




National Right to Life Committee




United Auto Workers union




Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S.




Not coded as either business or mass-based




National Education Association (includes a mass base of teachers but also university professors)




National Governors' Association (affected by interest groups rather than acting as an independent group)




Universities (unclear status as businesses or nonprofits)




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 31




31




Appendix 2. Correcting for Measurement Error




Measurement error is unavoidable in social science data. Its consequences depend on




both the magnitude and the nature of error and, in particular, on whether the errors in




measurement of one variable are correlated with the errors of other variables in a given model.




The predictors used in our analyses come from two distinct data sources: aggregate




survey data, for estimating the policy preferencs of median- and high-income Americans; and




historical data on interest group issue engagement, for generating the Net Interest Group




Alignment Indices. Because our measures of interest group alignments are entirely distinct from




the preference measures in origin, there is no reason to expect that their measurement errors




would be correlated across policies with those for our other two independent variables. In the




case of interest group policy dispositions, then, we have only uncorrelated (random or




“classical”) measurement error to consider. We estimate this error based on inter-coder reliability




(Chronbach’s alpha) of .87.




But our two other independent variables come from a single data source, the same set of




national opinion surveys. Consequently, errors in our measures of the policy preferences of




average citizens and those of economic elites are likely to be positively correlated with each




other. Errors affecting both measures in the same way within a particular survey can arise from




such factors as sampling, question wording, question order, topics in the news at the time the




survey was in the field, and so on.51 Correlated errors on these preference measures tend to




produce upwardly biased statistical relationships between the two independent variables,




producing a higher uncorrected correlation between them (r=.94) than the corrected r=.78 shown




in Table 2.




In order to assess the magnitude of correlated errors, multiple measures of the same




underlying concept or attitude are needed. These are available for a subset of 387 of the 1,779




proposed policy changes in our dataset, for which which more than one survey question




addressed essentially the same policy issue and was asked in the same calendar year. Using the




subset of proposed changes with multiple measures, the error covariance between preferences of




median and high income Americans was estimated to account for 17 percent of the total




covariance between these measures.52




Using the measurement error estimates described above, we estimated structural equation




models in AMOS that purged of error the structural coefficients representing the associations of




the predictors with our outcome measure. The resulting coefficients are reported in tables 3 and 4




and are translated into predicted probabilities in figure 1.




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 32




32




For comparison, appendix table A1 shows the results from an ordinary least squares




regression that parallels the multivariate model in table 3 but in which measurement error is not




taken into account. The implausible negative coefficient for average citizens and the impluasibly




large positive coefficient for economic elites suggests the presence of correlated measurement




error.53




As noted above, the corrections for measurement error described here can help reduce




flaws in our measures that affect the relationship between our indictors and their underlying




concepts. But these corrections cannot address the flaws that arise from the imperfect fit between




those concepts and the characteristics we would prefer to measure (such as our use of the 90th




income perenctile as a proxy for economic elites).




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 33




33




Table A1. Ordinary Least Squares Analysis Parallel to the Structural Equation Model




Presented in Table 3.




Compare with table 3, model 4




Preferences of average citizens




Preferences of economic elites




Alignment of Interest groups




-.93 (.24) ***




1.66 (.24) ***




.46 (.07) ***




N




R-sq




1,779




.08




***p<.001




Note: All predictors are scaled to range from 0 to 1. The dependent variable is the




policy outcome, coded 1 if the proposed policy change took place within four years




of the survey date and 0 if it did not. Predictors are the logits of the imputed percent




of respondents at the 50th (“average citizens”) or 90th (“economic elites”) income




percentile that favor the proposed policy change, and the Net Interest Group




Alignment Indices described in the text.




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 34




34




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Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 38




38




Notes




1 Tocqueville 2000 [1835, 1840], 235-49. Tocqueville focused on state governments, which he




said “really direct[ed]” American society; he noted that the Founders had imposed limits on




direct democracy in the federal government (235, fn 1.) Yet he asserted in general terms that




“[t]he laws of democracy...emanate from the majority of all citizens” (222.)




2 Lincoln 1863. Dahl 1956, ch. 2, defined “populistic democracy” in terms of pure majority rule,




traced its theoretical roots to Aristotle’s political equality, Locke’s “majority power,” Rousseau’s




“general will” of the majority, and James Madison’s “republican principle,” and critically




analyzed its normative properties.




3 Hotelling 1929; Black 1948, 1958; Downs 1957. In his full-information ch. 2, Downs offers a




clever though somewhat indeterminate non-dimensional version of the theory; in ch. 8 he




explicates a variant of Hotelling’s single-dimensional version. For extensions to multiple




dimensions see Davis, Hinich, and Ordeshook 1970. May’s Theorem establishes that simple




majority rule is the only collective decision rule for choosing between two alternatives that




satisfies the Arrow-type democratic conditions of decisiveness, anonymity, neutrality, and




positive responsiveness to individuals’ preferences (May 1952).




4 Arrow 1963 [1951], McKelvey 1976. See Sen 1970.




5 A particularly trenchant critique is given in Ferguson 1995 (Appendix: “Deduced and




Abandoned”).




6 Monroe 1979, 1998; Page and Shapiro 1983; Erikson, Wright and McIver 1983; Stimson,




MacKuen, and Erikson 1995; Erikson, MacKuen, and Stimson 2002.




7 Bartels 2008, Gilens 2012. See also Jacobs and Page 2005, which indicates that the general




public may have little or no influence on U.S. foreign policy, when the preferences of business




leaders and other elites are taken into account.




8 Key 1961, ch. 11 and 472-76; Fiorina 1981; Zaller 2003. A variant on this logic that focuses




on the possibility of politicians “pandering” to current preferences under certain conditions is




given in Canes-Wrone, Herron, and Shotts 2001. “Latent” preferences are the collective policy




preferences that citizens would derive from their basic needs and values if they had accurate




information about the future unfolding of policy results. Such “latent” preferences are related to




the ideal, “authentic” preferences that some political theorists see as superior to, and more




worthy of governmental responsiveness than, the policy preferences that citizens actually




express. This can be seen as adding normative appeal to an electoral-reward-and- punishment




system of democratic control. See Mansbridge 2003.




9 See Page and Shapiro 1992.




10 Mills 1959, ch. 12, esp. p. 279. Robert Michels 2001 [1911], a founder of modern elite theory,




emphasized positions of leadership in political parties.




Some of Theda Skocpol’s early work (e.g., Skocpol and Finegold 1982) can be seen as




based on a state-centric elite theory that emphasizes public officials. Beginning with Protecting




Soldiers and Mothers (1992), however, Skocpol’s analyses of American politics have paid more




attention to non-state elites, social movements, organized interest groups, and the preferences of




the general public. Thus Skocpol’s work, like that of a number of other important scholars of




American politics (e.g., Katznelson 2013), does not fit neatly into our simple theoretical




categories.




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 39




39




11 Beard 1913; Domhoff 2013; Burch 1980-1981; Ferguson 1995; Winters 2011; Winters and




Page 2009.




The boundary between elite theories that focus on economically elite individuals, and




interest group theories that focus on organized corporate interests (discussed below), is not




always a sharp one. Here we treat most theories that emphasize corporate organizations or




industrial sectors (e.g., Block 2007, Ferguson 1995) as primarily constituting “interest group”




rather than elite theories. We categorize self-identified elite theorists like Domhoff as such even




if they emphasize business elites and treat corporate organizations as important mechanisms of




influence. Winters 2011 may come closest to an exclusive focus on wealthy individuals rather




than organizations.




One might argue that the economic classes central to classical Marxist theories amount to




“economic elites.” But Marxist theorists see class position as only imperfectly related to wealth




or income, and their focus on ownership of the means of production suggests that business firms




and business associations may be the key political actors. Hence we discuss these theories below




in connection with corporations and organized interest groups, noting the kinship of




“instrumentalist” Marxist theories to theories of biased pluralism.




12 The term “interest group” tends to evoke images of membership groups like the League of




Women voters or the National Rifle Association, but many politically important “groups” are in




fact business corporations.




13 Madison, Hamilton, and Jay 1961 [1787-88], 77-84.




14 Bentley 1908; Truman 1971 [1951], esp. p.511.




15 Dahl 1956. 1989. Berry 1999 emphasizes the rising power of “citizen groups.”




16 Olson 1965.




17 Schattschneider 1960, p.35; Schlozman, Verba, and Brady 2012, ch. 10-14.




18 Schattschneider 1960, ch. 1; McConnell 1966; Stigler 1971; Lindblom 1977, Parts IV and V;




Ferguson 1995; Block 2007; Hacker and Pierson 2010.




19 Marx and Engels 1972 [1848]. This English-language text comes from the 1888 publication




edited by Engels.




20 Miliband 1969, ch. 6. Fred Block (1977) makes a critical distinction between




“instrumentalist” Marxist theories like Miliband’s, in which politically conscious members of the




ruling class use their economic resources to shape state action in their own material interests, and




“structural” theories, in which the capitalist economic system itself tends to shape state policies




and the preferences of its citizens – including workers, who are compelled to accept low wages




and high capitalist profits for the sake of future investment and growth. On alternative Marxist




theories of power, see also Isaac 1987b. For a formalized structural Marxist theory, see




Przeworski and Wallerstein 1982.




21 Again: our data can do little to distinguish among these or other mechanisms of political




influence. We focus on possible sources of influence among individuals and groups in society.




22 Schlozman, Verba, and Brady 2012, ch. 10-14, esp. pp. 321, 329, 356.




23 Schattschneider 1935.




24 Bauer, Pool, and Dexter 1963; Milbrath 1963; McChesney 1997.




25 Smith 2000; Baumgartner et al. 2009.




26 Smith 2000, ch.3.




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 40




40




27 Numerical success rates are not reported in Smith 2000, but the “enactment scorecard” line in




Figure 4.1 (p.83) appears to show Chamber success on 60% or more of the bills in most years,




with very substantial variation from year to year.




28 Baumgartner et al. 2009, 233, 235. These multivariate results may be biased downwards




because the regressions include as independent variables congressional and executive branch




officials’ active support for (or opposition to) policy changes. Since officials’ behavior may well




have been influenced by the interest groups themselves, the inclusion of these predictors restricts




the estimates of group influence to direct effects, excluding any indirect impact that was




channeled through interest groups’ influence over officials.




On the other hand, the omission of other influential actors from the analysis could (if their




preferences were positively correlated with those of interest groups) produce spuriously inflated




estimates of interest group influence. A further complexity in assessing interest group influence




involves policy cases in which groups take no stand at all, which are not included in the analysis




by either Smith or Baumgartner et al. Inclusion of no-stand cases would be necessary if one




sought to assess the extent to which groups affect over-all policy results – though not for




assessing the extent of group influence in the cases where influence attempts are actually made.




29 Appreciation for their fine work in assisting with the colossal task of collecting and coding




these data goes to Marty Cohen, Jason Conwell, Andrea Vanacore, and Mark West at UCLA,




and Oleg Bespalov, Daniel Cassino, Kevin Collins, Shana Gadarian, Raymond Hicks, and Lee




Shaker at Princeton.




30 Arguments for the normative and empirical relevance of the “survey agenda” are discussed in Gilens 2012, 50-




56. Note that if (as we find) the public has little or no influence on our issues, which tilt toward high salience, it is




unlikely that the public has much influence on more technical or obscure matters.




31 In 2012, the 10th percentile of household income was about $12,200, the 50th percentile about




$51,000, and the 90th percentile about $146,000 (U.S. Census Bureau, “Income, Poverty, and




Health Insurance Coverage: 2012,” September 2013,




http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/pdf/20130917_ip_slides_with_plotpoints.pdf). For




further detail on these data, See Gilens 2012, 57-66.




32 Of course the average (median) citizen is not identical to the eligible or actual “median voter.”




But the generally small magnitude of differences between the policy preferences of voters and




those of all citizens (Wolfinger and Rosenstone 1980, 109-114; Schlozman, Verba, and Brady




2012, 120-21) suggests that our measure captures the spirit of median voter theories. To the




extent that differences exist, we consider the average citizen to be of greater normative – though




less empirical – importance.




33 To make an approximate assessment of the fit between the preferences of the medianpreference




respondent and those of the median-income respondent we calculated the median




preference within each of five income groups (at the 10th, 30th, 50, 70th and 90th percentiles).




For example, if, on a particular non-monotonic item, the five income groups had imputed median




preferences of .50, .60, .70 .65 and .55 (for the 10th to 90th income percentiles, respectively),




then the estimated over-all median preference would be .60 (in this case equaling the preference




at the 30th income percentile). In most cases the over-all median preference is the same as the




median income (50th percentile) preference. When it is not, the preference differences across




income levels tend to be small. Using this technique, the median over-all preferences and the




median-income preferences track each other very closely: r=.997.




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 41




41




34 This study is one of the few surveys that meets the two criteria of having a sufficiently large




sample size (n=20,150) and a high enough top-coded income category to provide information on




the policy preferences of very affluent Americans.




35 Correlations of the policy preferences of the top 2% with those of the top 10% are based on the




76 CCES respondents who reported at least $350,000 in family income. Using the 179 CCES




respondents who reported at least $250,000 (roughly the top 4.5% of the income distribution),




the corresponding correlations are .97 and .76.




Some corroborating evidence comes from a comparison of the Survey of Economically




Successful Americans (Page, Bartels and Seawright 2013), based on a local sample of the




wealthiest 1% or 2% of Americans, and the Inequality Survey (Page and Jacobs 2009) which was




based on a representative sample of the American public. Eight policy preference questions that




were included on both surveys showed that the preferences of the top 25% of income earners




generally fell about half way between those of the average citizen and those of the wealthy. For




similar findings concerning the policy preferences of the top 4% or so of income earners, see




Page and Hennessy 2008.




36 We distinguish conceptually between two sorts of deficiencies in our measures: flaws that




affect the relationship between our indictors and their underlying concepts (such as the random




and correlated measurement errors we discuss in the appendix), and flaws that arise from the




imperfect fit between those concepts and the characteristics we would prefer to measure. For




example, the adjustments described in the appendix help us to improve our estimates of the




preferences of Americans at the 90th income percentile, but they cannot help to make those




estimates any more accurate as indicators of the preferences of the truly rich Americans whose




views we would prefer to include in our models.




37 Baumgartner et al. 2009, 225. We believe that our measure of net interest group alignment




(described below) is actually superior to the Fortune 25 proxy examined by Baumgartner et al.




because it includes industries that do not lobby through centralized trade organizations, it is




nonlinear in net number of groups, and it reflects the extent to which a particular issue is central




to the concerns of an interest group or industry.




38 For more detail on the Index of Net Interest Group Alignment, see Gilens 2012, 127-130.




39 On the measurement of policy change, see Gilens 2012, p.60 and endnote #18, p.284.




40 For correlations of individual groups’ positions with average citizens’ preferences see Gilens




2012, 156-57.




41 These particular values for low and high levels of support among affluent Americans and




interest groups were chosen because about fifteen percent of all proposed policy changes




generated either less than 20% or more than 80% support among the affluent, and about fifteen




percent of all proposed changes on which interests groups took a position generated a raw net




interest group score of either more than 5 groups strongly in favor or more than five groups




strongly opposed (counting “somewhat” favorable or opposed as one-half of a group).




42 See Monroe 1979, 1998; Page and Shapiro 1983; Stimson, MacKuen, and Erikson 1995.




43 Perhaps counterintuitively, it turns out that business groups tilted somewhat less toward




opposing proposed changes (33% opposed, 26% in favor) than mass-based groups did (38%




opposed, 20% in favor.)




44 Even if existing organized groups did not reflect the wishes of average citizens, officials’




anticipated reactions to unformed “potential groups” might in theory provide some




representation for average citizens, as David Truman argued they do. But our Table 3 finding of




Gilens and Page Testing Theories of American Politics 42




42




negligible independent influence by average citizens when existing organized interest groups’




positions are controlled for, leaves little room for potential groups (and officials’ anticipation of




them) to advance the preferences of ordinary citizens.




45 Schlozman, Verba, and Brady 2012, ch. 10-14, esp. pp. 321, 329, 356.




46 For the 369 out of 1,779 cases in which both business-based and mass-based interest groups




took a stand, the coefficients are just .09 (n.s.) for mass groups but .48** (p<.001) for business




groups.




47 For those proposed policy changes on which at least one business-oriented group took a




position, another business-oriented group was found on the opposite side less than five percent of




the time. Interestingly, mass-based groups were somewhat more likely to take stands on both




sides of an issue, for example pro-life and pro-choice groups on abortion, or the AARP which




opposed the Clinton health reform plan and the AFL-CIO that favored it.




48 For the analysis in table 4, both the business and mass interest group indices were scaled to run




from 0 to 1. When we rescaled these indices to reflect the differing numbers of business and




mass-based groups engaged on each issue, the standard deviation of the business alignment index




was .158 and the mass-oriented index .096; their associations with policy outcomes (analogous




to those shown in table 4) were almost identical, at .38 (p<.01) and .40 (p<.001), respectively.




49 Bachrach and Baratz 1962, Lukes 1974. See Isaac 1987a.




50 On the normative argument, see Dahl 1989, esp. ch. 7. For empirical evidence that its




conditions tend to be satisfied, see Page and Shapiro 1992 and Gilens 2011.




51 Since these factors do not affect the interest group coding we are less concerned about possible




correlated error between the mass and business interest group indices. See O'Brien, Robert M.




"Correcting Measures of Relationship between Aggregate-Level Variables." Sociological




Methodology 21 (1994): 125-65 and O'Brien, Robert M. "Correcting Measures of Relationship




between Aggregate-Level Variables for Both Unreliability and Correlated Errors: An Empirical




Example." Social Science Research 27, no. 2 (Jun 1998): 218-34.




52 See pp.62-66 and the appendix to Gilens 2012 for details on this calculation and the




comparability of the 387 survey questions with multiple meaures with the full set of 1,779 items.




53 For a discussion of diagnosing and correcting for correlated measurement error see Achen




1985 and Gilens 2012, pp.253-258.

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