Abstract

Theory: The political information that lobbyists seek is distributed in a communications network. Individual lobbyists must therefore choose their contacts carefully. We wed rational choice theory to network analysis in a combinatorial optimization model of lobbyists’ choice of contacts in a network. The model demonstrates the growing importance of political "friends" relative to acquaintances as contacts when the competition for information among groups rises. Hypotheses: Our model predicts that when the general demand for political information is low, a cocktail equilibrium prevails: lobbyists will invest their time in gaining "weak tie" political acquaintances rather than in gaining "strong tie" political friends (Granovetter 1973). As the demand for information rises, lobbyists follow a chum strategy, investing in strong ties. Method: We test these hypotheses in an analysis of inter-organizational contact making in U.S. health politics, using the data of Laumann and Knoke (1987), with OLS regressions of average group contacts across policy events and maximum likelihood count models of contacts across interest groups. Results: Both the events-level analysis and the group-level analysis show that as lobbyists' demand for information rises, they make more strong ties. We also find that older organizations have more strong ties by virtue of reputation effects, but we find no evidence for the hypothesis that strong-tie investments are increasing in a group's fiscal resources.

Notes

Presented at the Annual Meetings of the American Political Science Association, Washington, D.C., 1997. An earlier and different version of this paper was prepared for presentation at the annual meetings of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, Illinois, April 10-13, 1997.

Keywords

lobbyists, network analysis, communications network, combinatorial optimization, demand for information

Subject Categories

Lobbyists - Social networks

Disciplines

Interpersonal and Small Group Communication | Social Influence and Political Communication

Publication Date

1997