Grassroots Lobbying and the Economics of Political Information in the Digital Age Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Cluverius, John
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Political Science
  • Leading theories of grassroots lobbying assert that legislators should respond positively to the volume of grassroots lobbying messages they receive because volume indicates the salience of an issue among constituents. This notion rests on the idea that the cost of producing a large volume of grassroots lobbying signals the value of the information to legislators. Advances in technology and strategy, however, have flattened the costs associated with producing such information -- it costs an interest group about the same to generate one hundred email messages as it does ten thousand. In this environment, the volume of grassroots lobbying no longer signals the value of the information it contains. Instead, trust becomes the critical factor in evaluating grassroots lobbying, and with growing skepticism of mass emailing efforts, volume of grassroots lobbying should have no effect or even a negative effect. In this study, I test this theory using a survey of state legislators and interviews with legislators and interest group leaders. In a survey experiment, I find (contrary to previous work) that lobbying message volume has no effect on legislator responses to higher-salience issues, and a negative effect on lower salience issues. Interviews with legislators and coded open responses from the survey confirm that these effects are produced because legislators do not trust high-volume grassroots lobbying efforts. In interviews with state legislators, I find that the resources legislators are provided, particularly legislative staff, enable them to better trust grassroots lobbying information. In the context of other information sources, access to resources and majority party status also affect which source of information legislators trust most.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Carsey, Thomas M.
  • Treul Roberts, Sarah
  • MacKuen, Michael
  • Gross, Justin
  • Gray, Virginia
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2015
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
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