Special Interest Groups Versus Voters and the Political Economics of Attention

57 Pages Posted: 17 Dec 2018

See all articles by Patrick Balles

Patrick Balles

University of Basel

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

Abstract

Asymmetric information between voters and legislative representatives poses a major challenge to the functioning of representative democracy. We examine whether representatives are more likely to serve long-term campaign donors instead of constituents during times of low media attention to politics. Combining data on campaign finance donations made by individuals and special interest groups with information on their preferences for particular bills, we construct novel measures of electoral and organized interests pressure that representatives face with regard to specific legislative votes. In our analysis based on 490 roll calls between 2005 and 2014 in the US House of Representatives, we find strong evidence that representatives are more likely to vote with special interests and against constituency interests when the two are in conflict. Importantly, the latter effect is significantly larger when there is less attention on politics. Thereby, we draw on exogenous newsworthy shock events that crowd out news on the legislative process, but are themselves not related to it. The opportunistic behavior seems not to be mediated by short-term scheduling of sensitive votes right after distracting events.

Keywords: attention, campaign finance, interest groups, legislative voting, mass media, media attention, roll call voting, US House of Representatives

JEL Classification: D72, L82, L86

Suggested Citation

Balles, Patrick and Matter, Ulrich and Stutzer, Alois, Special Interest Groups Versus Voters and the Political Economics of Attention. IZA Discussion Paper No. 11945. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3301696

Patrick Balles (Contact Author)

University of Basel

Petersplatz 1
Basel, CH-4003
Switzerland

Ulrich Matter

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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