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Does Public Attention Reduce the Influence of Interest Groups? Policy Positions on SOPA/PIPA before and after the Internet Blackout

46 Pages Posted: 13 Dec 2016  

Ulrich Matter

University of St. Gallen - Swiss Institute for International Economics and Applied Economic Research

Alois Stutzer

University of Basel - Faculty of Business and Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Date Written: December 12, 2016

Abstract

We investigate the role that public attention plays in determining the effect that campaign contributions funded by interests groups have on legislators’ policy positions. In so doing, we exploit the Internet service blackout of January 2012 as a quasi-experiment in which a shock increases the salience of the SOPA/PIPA bills aimed at securing stronger protection of property rights on the Internet. Using a newly compiled dataset of U.S. congressmen’s public statements, which capture their positions throughout the debate, we find an initially strong statistical relationship between campaign contributions funded by the affected industries and legislators’ positions. However, this relationship evaporates once the two bills become primary policy issues. The evidence presented is in line with the theoretical notion that legislators choose positions on secondary policy issues in order to cater to organized interests, whereas positions on primary policy issues are driven by electoral support.

Keywords: Campaign Finance, Secondary Policy Issues, Outside Lobbying, Internet Governance, Mass Media, Policy Positions, Interest Groups

JEL Classification: D72, L82, L86

Suggested Citation

Matter, Ulrich and Stutzer, Alois, Does Public Attention Reduce the Influence of Interest Groups? Policy Positions on SOPA/PIPA before and after the Internet Blackout (December 12, 2016). Berkman Klein Center Research Publication No. 2016-22. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2884316 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2884316

Ulrich Matter (Contact Author)

University of St. Gallen - Swiss Institute for International Economics and Applied Economic Research

Bodanstrasse 8
St. Gallen, 9000
Switzerland

Alois Stutzer

University of Basel - Faculty of Business and Economics ( email )

Peter Merian-Weg 6
4002 Basel
Switzerland
0041 61 267 3361 (Phone)
0041 61 267 3340 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.wwz.unibas.ch/stutzer/

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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