Quiet Influence: The Representation of Diffuse Interests
on Trade Policy, 1983–94
Legislative Studies Quarterly XXVI:45-80
A core tenet of many approaches to American trade politics is that diffuse interests exert little or no influence on the process. This paper argues, however, that there are theoretical and empirical reasons to believe that diffuse interests can and do influence congressional trade politics. Members of Congress respond to these interests in order to preempt their mobilization by political rivals, interest groups, the president, and the media. This mechanism does not preclude interest group influence but rather points our attention to an additional influence on congressional trade voting. Evidence for this view comes from statistical analyses of ten years of House and Senate trade voting in the eighties and nineties. The results indicate that skilled labor--an interest that receives diffuse benefits from trade but lacks direct organization--has been a statistically significant, consistent, and substantial influence on congressional trade voting.
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