Date of Graduation

8-2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Political Science

Advisor

William D. Schreckhise

Committee Member

Brinck Kerr

Second Committee Member

Todd G. Shields

Abstract

Despite their importance to our system, the study of interest groups has produced few concrete findings compared to other actors such as administrative agencies and political parties in the policymaking process. The absence of generalizable findings is partly explained by the unpopularity of the topic, but is primarily due to a deficiency of easily accessible data and lack of agreement over how to operationalize important concepts. In the following dissertation, I employ interest group "scorecards" (ratings of members of Congress) as an approach to examining interest groups in a generalizable manner. Specifically, I use scorecards to test the pluralist assumptions of public policy reflecting an equilibrium of competing interests. I do this by developing a measure of legislative satisfaction, which can be compared across different types of groups and congresses. I examine four types of organizations - business and professional trade associations, labor unions, charitable organizations, and public interest groups - which issued senate scorecards from the 106th through the 111th congresses. I find that the satisfaction of labor and charitable groups fluctuates with changes in the partisan makeup of the senate, but business satisfaction remains relatively constant and high for most terms of Congress. As expected, public interest satisfaction remains constant but low. The typical layperson may assume that groups with popular missions (those representing large populations) and lots of money or those who spend considerable amounts on political activities (e.g., campaigning and lobbying) may be more satisfied with Congress. However, this study finds no relationship between group satisfaction and those factors.

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