Louder Chorus -- Same Accent: The Representation of Interests in Pressure Politics, 1981-2011

54 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2013

See all articles by Kay Schlozman

Kay Schlozman

Boston College

Philip Edward Jones

University of Delaware

Hye Young You

Vanderbilt University

Traci Burch

Northwestern University - Department of Political Science; American Bar Foundation

Sidney Verba

Harvard University

Henry E. Brady

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Political Science

Date Written: 2013


What kinds of interests are represented by organizations in Washington? A half century ago, E.E. Schattschneider warned famously that “the flaw in the pluralist heaven is that the heavenly chorus sings with an upper-class accent.” In particular, he argued that organizations on behalf of both broad publics and those who lack resources are relatively rare. Subsequent empirical investigations have confirmed Schattschneider’s observation. In this paper, we examine how the growth and changing composition of the pressure system have affected the extent to which it is representative of the American public.

This paper draws upon an extensive data base assembled by our research team and used in our recent book, The Unheavenly Chorus: Unequal Political Voice and the Broken Promise of American Democracy (Princeton University Press, 2012). Since the completion of that project we have added data about 2011 so that the data base includes nearly 35,000 organizations, comprising all the organizations listed at least once in the Washington Representatives directories (Columbia Books) published in 1981, 1991, 2001, 2006, and 2011 as having been active in Washington politics. We have categorized these organizations into 96 categories based on their organizational structure and the nature of the interest being represented (for example, business, an occupation, a blue-collar union, a foreign government, a group of universities, a religious or ethnic group, or a conservative think tank). In addition, for each organization, we have collected information about such matters as its founding date and its spending on lobbying.

These data permit us to shed light on the fundamental aspect of democratic equality, the question of who has voice in national politics. Tracing organizations active in Washington politics over a thirty-year period, we are able to ascertain how the Washington pressure system has grown over the decades and to determine whether that growth represents newly founded organizations or the entry into politics of previously existing organizations. Furthermore, by asking whether that growth has been uniform across sectors we are able to trace the changing distribution of both the kinds of organized interests and spending on lobbying. In particular, we are able to inquire whether the much-noticed increase in the number of citizen organizations has been matched by equivalent growth in the kinds of organizations -- for example, corporations, trade associations, professional associations, and unions -- that have traditionally formed the backbone of the pressure system, thus, leaving the overall distribution of organizations, and the distribution of lobbying spending, fundamentally unchanged.

Suggested Citation

Schlozman, Kay and Jones, Philip Edward and You, Hye Young and Burch, Traci and Verba, Sidney and Brady, Henry E., Louder Chorus -- Same Accent: The Representation of Interests in Pressure Politics, 1981-2011 (2013). APSA 2013 Annual Meeting Paper, American Political Science Association 2013 Annual Meeting, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2299974

Kay Schlozman (Contact Author)

Boston College ( email )

140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
United States

Philip Edward Jones

University of Delaware ( email )

Newark, DE 19711
United States

Hye Young You

Vanderbilt University ( email )

Department of Political Science
Commons Center 353, 230 Appleton Place
Nashville, TN 37240
United States

HOME PAGE: http://hyeyoungyou.com

Traci Burch

Northwestern University - Department of Political Science ( email )

601 University Place (Scott Hall)
Evanston, IL 60201
United States

American Bar Foundation

750 N. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

Sidney Verba

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Henry E. Brady

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Political Science ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

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