Interest groups use a variety of techniques to exert influence, among which coalition strategies are dominant. This project brings a new theoretical perspective to the study of interest group coalitions by applying network theory and methods. Such a perspective provides a lens where the attributes of individuals are less important than the relationships and ties among actors in the network. This project addresses three important questions about interest group behavior: how have interest group coalition strategies changed over time; which factors determine whether interest groups work together; and do particular interest groups wield more power before the Court? Utilizing a network measure of interest group coalitions based on cosigner status to United States Supreme Court amicus curiae, or friend of the court briefs, the central players and overall characteristics of this dynamic network from 1930 to present-day are illuminated. In addition, the analyses suggest which attributes bring interest groups to work together and how power in the network influences judicial decision-making and litigation success.

Through the creation of a new network measure applicable to 80 years of interest group activity and an associated data set of interest group characteristics, this research provides scholars an unparalleled opportunity to study the relative impact of interest group coalitions as they engage the governmental process.

Project Report

Interest groups are an important component of democratic governance. While interest groups use a variety of techniques to exert influence, coalition strategies are dominant. That is, winning in front of the courts, the legislative arena, or the executive branch is typically not a solitary act. However, many questions remain about coalitions. This investigation brings a new theoretical perspective to the study of these coalitions by applying network theory and methods. Such a perspective provides a lens that highlights the relationships and ties among the groups in the network. This project addresses classic questions of interest group behavior: how have interest group coalition strategies changed over time; which factors most determine whether interest groups work together; and do particular interest groups wield more power before the Court and other branches of government? Utilizing a network measure of interest group coalitions based on cosigner status to United States Supreme Court amicus curiae, or friend of the court briefs, the central players and overall characteristics of this dynamic network from 1930 to present-day are illuminated. In addition, our methodological contributions in network analysis will also have an impact across disciplines. This work focuses on development of a network model that incorporates unexplained heterogeneity, and therefore relaxes the strong assumption that all covariates are adequately measured and accounted for when in reality that may not be possible. Our model provides a more accurate understanding of the substantive problems and allows for prediction. The network model applies to a range of substantive areas from political science to population and health, transportation and human systems, as well as national security as viewed from a network perspective. We have worked with over 100 undergraduates, training them in data collection and information gathering across a number of resources. Some undergraduates have been further trained in statistical software, data analysis and management. We have worked with 4 graduate students, training them in data collection, analysis, and programming.

Agency
National Science Foundation (NSF)
Institute
Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES)
Type
Standard Grant (Standard)
Application #
1124369
Program Officer
Susan Sterett
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
2011-09-15
Budget End
2014-08-31
Support Year
Fiscal Year
2011
Total Cost
$125,821
Indirect Cost
Name
Boston University
Department
Type
DUNS #
City
Boston
State
MA
Country
United States
Zip Code
02215