Assessing Business Advantage in Washington Lobbying

Document Type


Publication Date



Political Science



Publication Title

Interest Groups & Advocacy


Popular accounts of business involvement in politics typically suggest that business interests enjoy relatively unfettered success in getting what they want from government. Scholarly work is more equivocal. In this article we use a random sample of 98 policy issues between 1998 and 2002 to examine whether business interests and other advocates get what they want from the policy process, and how their rate of success varies when they face different types of opponents. We find that business’ efforts to affect public policy typically draw challenges from other types of interests. In the face of opposition, business is less likely relative to citizen interests to achieve its goals. But business does appear to have an advantage in the relatively rare instances when it acts to advance its interests on issues that do not draw opposition or interest from other actors. Under these circumstances, it is much more likely than other types of advocates who face no opposition to realize its policy goals. Our findings clarify how the nature and framing of issues and a favorable political climate can prove essential to business’ prospects for achieving policy success.


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