‘Social Lobbying’ Receives Joseph Bernd Award for Best Paper Published in Journal of Politics

Jan. 20, 2023 | Christian Grose, professor of political science and public policy

The SPSA announced the Joseph Bernd award at its January meeting, stating:

“‘Social Lobbying’ by Christian Grose, Pamela Lopez, Sara Sadhwani and Antoine Yoshinaka, investigates the impact of direct social lobbying on the likelihood that lawmakers will support a given interest group’s preferred policy. Leveraging an extremely innovative, pre-registered field experiment that embodies all the best features of experiments designed to infer causation in a natural setting, together with supplementary survey data among registered lobbyists, the authors demonstrate the importance of out-of-office social encounters with lawmakers to influencing policy outcomes.

The project takes on a topic that is fundamental to understanding American politics — how do interest groups (and the money they spend) influence preferences of policy makers? Despite concern among researchers and the public alike about the outsized influence of affluent organized interests, scholarship has concluded that direct lobbying does not significantly impact lawmakers’ decisions. In contrast, the authors here show: 1) that direct social lobbying, outside the space of the office, does impact outcomes; and 2) that it occurs quite frequently.

Chart with horizontal gray bars, the top one labeled "Social location" and measuring about 45%, and the bottom labeled "Office location" measuring about 55%The paper is an important entry into interest group politics — a central driver in American political life. The committee was especially impressed with the novel partnership developed with a lobbying firm in California, without which the field experiment would not have been possible.

What set this paper apart, moreover, was the use of multiple methods to bolster their arguments. The authors fielded an original survey of registered lobbyists across the states, finding that social lobbying is a common practice nationally.

The findings affirm a common understanding about how politics works — and as such, had they been null they would have been just as important an entry into the American politics canon.

The committee views this article as one that encapsulates all the best of leading-edge social science — powerful theories tested with rigorous methods that demonstrate causation. It will be a model of how to advance social science — powerful theories tested with rigorous methods that demonstrate causation.”