Members of Congress respond to more than money – sometimes

Source: Jan Leighley, Jennifer Oser, The Conversation, February 9, 2018

Does citizen activism really affect the actions of elected officials?

Despite the ubiquitous role of money in campaigns, elections and policymaking, some citizens clearly still believe in the power of protest.

In the month of December 2017 alone, an organization called The Crowd Counting Consortiumtallied 796 protests, demonstrations, strikes, marches, sit-ins and rallies,” some of them featuring thousands of people, across the country. Over the past year, the offices of many members of Congress and other elected officials have been jammed with constituents voicing their opinions on the Affordable Care Act, the immigration program called DACA, abortion and sexual harassment, among others.

But does all of this sign waving and sitting in actually influence elected officials?

As social scientists, we have long been interested in political participation and online activism. We used this knowledge to design a study that looks at whether activism changes the votes of elected officials – and whether the effect is strong enough to mitigate the power of donated money.

What we found is that citizens can make their voices heard – at least some of the time….