Friday, February 02, 2007

NRA Election Influence

David Koppel posted the link to this study (by Christopher B. Kenny, Michael McBurnett & David J. Bordua) on the Volokh Conspiracy. It's relatively short, so you should read it for yourself.

The Conclusion:
So, does the NRA have any political impact? The answer is yes. This interest group gathers information on gun control and other issues important to the members, disseminates the information to the membership, represents its members to elected officials, reports to the membership the behaviors of elected officials, and helps shape public opinion on some issues. Put another way, the NRA is like a political party, but one that cuts across the current two-party alignment.
They have a bunch of numbers and analysis that is informative.

It would have been interesting to seen a comparison with other lobbying groups. Though it would be unlikely that they would have been given the access to the data that the NRA revealed. The comparison would have to be to a tightly focused message like gun control. The AARP has a powerful lobbying arm, but they are more general in their topical focus. The Brady bunch probably wouldn't play, though it would have been an interesting comparison of effectiveness.

Personally it raises more questions as to whether it's the money or the grass-roots support that makes the NRA effective.

One important note, that will surely be ignored by the gun grabbers:
As is commonly the case when truly systematic analysis is done, these results are complex and not all readily understood. Does the NRA activity affect election results? Yes, but not always to the same extent and not for all candidates. Challengers, Republicans, and 1994 stand out as showing greater effects. We all know there are issue differences in our elected officials: Southern Democrats are often different from the Massachusetts Democrats on many issues, including taxation and gun control. Northeastern Republicans do not necessarily resemble their Midwestern party brethren on these issues either. The strength of our analysis is in accounting for the variation within and across the parties in whether NRA endorsements were made, and also accounting for the local strength of NRA membership to influence elections.
I'm thinking that the NRA advantage is likely more ephemeral than this report would suggest. I would wager that in the last election their influence was substantially down. No doubt, other topics of concern can easily shift the influence indicated. Another reason why larger studies would be more informative in the long run.

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