Is the United States is an Oligarchy?

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.


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 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.


Plays on our suspicion of authority meme, but is it just an emergent phenomenon?

Folksonomies: politics governance

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 Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens
Periodicals>Journal Article:  Gilens, Martin and Page, Benjamin I. (Fall 2014), Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens, Perspectives on Politics, Retrieved on 2014-04-21
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  • Folksonomies: politics governance


    21 APR 2014

     Is the US an Oligarchy?

    Is the United States is an Oligarchy? > Comparison > Counterpoint to "US Oligarchy" Finding
    Folksonomies: politics governance
    Folksonomies: politics governance