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Thomas T Holyoke, "The interest group effect on citizen contact with Congress," Party Politics, 19 (November 2013), 925-944. [Available at ]

First paragraph:
Representation requires citizens to actively communicate their wishes and concerns to those elected to speak for them, to keep tabs on those officials to make sure they follow through, and to protest when they do not. Yet political participation in the United States has been found to be declining through much of the twentieth century, except when it comes to interest group membership. The size and ideological diversity of the American interest group system has grown dramatically over the past 40 years and brought about substantial changes in how political organizations seek to mobilize bias on behalf of their members (Baumgartner and Leech, 2001; Walker, 1991). Counts vary, but it is generally believed that groups exist today by the tens of thousands, articulating a wide range of citizen demands backed by an arsenal of pressure tactics

Figures and Tables:
Figure 1. Hypothesized relationships among variables influencing group membership and political contact.
Table 1. Estimates of political inclination. Maximum likelihood estimates (robust standard errors).
Table 2. Estimates of choosing to join professional and citizen groups. Maximum likelihood estimates (robust standard errors).
Table 3. Estimates of contacting Congress by all and Internet-based low-effort methods. Maximum likelihood estimates (robust standard errors).
Figure 2. Likelihood of online contact by group membership and Internet familiarity.

Last Paragraph:
Finally, it confirms the notion that cartel parties and party systems can exist in the absence of a party-based polity -- albeit that the Citizen inclination towards political action, the role of SES in shaping it and the role of organized interests has a long history in the literature, and rightfully so. If representative democracy is to function properly, with elected officials articulating the concerns and desires of the represented, then understanding who participates and why, and how to stimulate more of it, is a crucial job for scholars and practitioners. Indeed, the normative role of interest groups here is of concern. If they are pushing theirmembers towards political action, then lawmakers are largely hearing the demands of narrow, if highly motivated, minorities whose success may come at the expense of unmobilized interests. On the other hand, the results also strongly suggest that interest groups, citizen groups at least,may be having a type of leveling effect on participation. Where citizens of high socio-economic status are, all things being equalmore likely to develop sharp civic skills and, consequently, bemore politically active, citizen groups compensate for this to some extent, helping lower SES citizens develop an interest in politics and giving them opportunities, directed opportunities to be sure, to express their interests. All of this should be the focus of future research.

Last updated November 2013