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Testing Theories of American Politics

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Testing Theories of American Politics

Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens

Princeton UP,

5 min read
5 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

If you think average Americans shape political policy, think again. See who really sets the agenda.

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Editorial Rating



  • Analytical
  • Innovative
  • Eye Opening


Many Americans may have long suspected that their ability to influence or even garner the attention of their elected representatives in Washington, DC, is limited. Now, this timely, innovative research report confirms their worst suspicions. Political scientists Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page used a unique data set to substantiate the conclusion that the policy-making process increasingly overlooks the interests of average US citizens to the benefit of affluent elites. getAbstract highly recommends this eye-opening presentation to civic-minded and politically astute observers who are concerned about the future of American democracy.


Political scientists have developed four theoretical frameworks through which to study American politics. Each theory offers different predictions about the degree of influence each of four sets of participants – “the average citizen, economic elites, and organized interest groups that are either mass-based or business-oriented” – have over public policy:

  1. “Majoritarian electoral democracy” – This theory posits that “the collective will” of the people – manifested through majority rule via fair elections – drives US government policies. Alexis de Tocqueville noted...

About the Authors

Martin Gilens is a professor of politics at Princeton University. Benjamin I. Page is a professor of policy research at Northwestern University.

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