Political Parties, Interest Groups, and Unequal Class Influence in American Policy
Abstract: Do policymakers in both parties represent the opinions of the richest Americans, ignoring those of median income? We find that the two political parties primarily represent different interest group sectors, rather than public economic classes. Although neither party consistently favors the views of the affluent over those of the middle class, the Republican Party and business interests are more often aligned with the opinions of the richest Americans. Democrats more often represent middle class opinions and are uniformly aligned with advocacy groups. Republicans represent affluent opinions on economic policy but are aligned with business interests across all issue areas. Support from both parties and business interests is associated with policy adoption, but their influence cannot explain the full association between affluent opinions and policy outcomes. Rather than an oligarchic political system, these patterns show competition among organized elites that still provides multiple potential paths for unequal public influence.