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How do these observations translate into the way different interests are represented in the political system? Some pluralist    scholars like David Truman suggest that people naturally join groups and that there will be a great deal of competition for access to decision-makers.

David B. Truman 1951. The Governmental Process: Political Interests and Public Opinion . New York: Knopf.
Scholars who subscribe to this pluralist view assume this competition among diverse interests is good for democracy. Political theorist Robert Dahl argued that “all active and legitimate groups had the potential to make themselves heard.”
Dahl, Robert A. 1956. A Preface to Democratic Theory . Chicago: University of Chicago Press; Dahl, Robert A. 1961. Who Governs? Democracy and Power in an American City . New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
In many ways, this is an optimistic assessment of representation in the United States.

However, not all scholars accept the premise that mobilization is natural and that all groups have the potential for access to decision-makers. The elite critique    suggests that certain interests, typically businesses and the wealthy, are advantaged and that policies more often reflect their wishes than anyone else’s. Political scientist E. E. Schattschneider noted that “the flaw in the pluralist heaven is that the heavenly chorus sings with a strong upperclass accent.”

E. E. Schattschneider. 1960. The Semisovereign People: A Realist’s View of Democracy in America . New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 35.
A number of scholars have suggested that businesses and other wealthy interests are often overrepresented before government, and that poorer interests are at a comparative disadvantage.
W. G. Domhoff. 2009. Who rules America? Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall; K. L. Schlozman, “What Accent the Heavenly choir? Political Equality and the American Pressure System,” Journal of Politics 46, No. 2 (1984) 1006–1032; K. L. Schlozman, S. Verba, and H. E. Brady. 2012. The Unheavenly Chorus: Unequal Political Voice and the Broken Promise of American Democracy . Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
For example, as we’ve seen, wealthy corporate interests have the means to hire in-house lobbyists or high-priced contract lobbyists to represent them. They can also afford to make financial contributions to politicians, which at least may grant them access. The ability to overcome collective action problems is not equally distributed across groups; as Mancur Olson noted, small groups and those with economic advantages were better off in this regard.
Olson, Jr., The Logic of Collective Action .
Disadvantaged interests face many challenges including shortages of resources, time, and skills.

A study of almost eighteen hundred policy decisions made over a twenty-year period revealed that the interests of the wealthy have much greater influence on the government than those of average citizens. The approval or disapproval of proposed policy changes by average voters had relatively little effect on whether the changes took place. When wealthy voters disapproved of a particular policy, it almost never was enacted. When wealthy voters favored a particular policy, the odds of the policy proposal’s passing increased to more than 50 percent.

Kevin Drum, “Nobody Cares What You Think Unless You’re Rich,” Mother Jones , 8 April 2014, http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/04/nobody-cares-what-you-think-unless-youre-rich.
Indeed, the preferences of those in the top 10 percent of the population in terms of income had an impact fifteen times greater than those of average income. In terms of the effect of interest groups on policy, Gilens and Page found that business interest groups had twice the influence of public interest groups.
Larry Bartels, “Rich People Rule!” Washington Post , 8 April 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2014/04/08/rich-people-rule.

Questions & Answers

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3
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Source:  OpenStax, American government. OpenStax CNX. Dec 05, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11995/1.15
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