Skip to main content Accessibility help

Comparing membership interest group networks across space and time, size, issue and industry*



We compare and contrast the network formation of interest groups across industry and issue area. We focus on membership interest groups, which by virtue of representing the interests of voluntary members face particular organizational and maintenance constraints. To reveal their cooperative behavior we build a network dataset based on cosigner status to United States Supreme Court amicus curiae briefs and analyze it with exponential random graph models and multidimensional scaling. Our methodological approach culminates in a clear and compact spatial representation of network similarities and differences. We find that while many of the same factors shape membership networks, religious, labor, and political organizations do not share the same structure as each other or as the business, civic and professional groups.



Hide All

Authors are listed alphabetically. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the 2013 ARS Conferene in Rome, Italy, and the 2012 Political Networks Conference in Boulder, Colorado. Further information on the original data and other papers on this project can be found at the project website:



Hide All
Andrews, K., Ganz, M., Baggetta, M., Han, H., & Lim, C. (2010). Leadership, membership, and voice: Civic associations that work. American Journal of Sociology, 115 (4), 11911242.
Baum, J. A. (1996). Organizational ecology. In Clegg, S. R., Hardy, C., & Nord, W. R. (Eds.), Handbook of Organization Studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Baum, J. A., & Mezias, S. J. (1992). Localized competition and organizational failure in the manhattan hotel industry, 1898–1990. Administrative Science Quarterly, 37, 580604.
Baum, J. A., & Singh, J. V. (1994a). Organizational niches and the dynamics of organizational founding. Organization Science, 5 (4), 483501.
Baum, J. A., & Singh, J. V. (1994b). Organizational niches and the dynamics of organizational mortality. American Journal of Sociology, 100 (2), 346380.
Baumgartner, F., Berry, J., Hojnacki, M., Kimball, D., & Leech, B. (2009). Advocacy and public policymaking. Retrieved from
Bearman, P. S., Moody, J., & Stovel, K. (2004). Chains of affection: The structure of adolescent romantic and sexual networks1. American Journal of Sociology, 110 (1), 4491.
Bennett, R. J., & Ramsden, M. (2007). The contribution of business associations to SMEs strategy, bundling or reassurance? International Small Business Journal, 25 (1), 4976.
Berry, J. M. (1977). Lobbying for the people: The political behavior of public interest groups. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Berry, J. M., & Wilcox, C. (1989). The interest group society. New York: Longman.
Bhadra, A., Jordan, F., Sumana, A., Deshpande, S., & Gadagkar, R. (2009). A comparative social network analysis of wasp colonies and classrooms: Linking network structure to functioning. Ecological Complexity, 6 (1), 4855.
Box-Steffensmeier, J. M., & Christenson, D. P. (2014). The evolution and formation of amicus curiae networks. Social Networks, 36, 8296.
Box-Steffensmeier, J. M., Christenson, D. P., & Craig, A. (2013a). Interest group signals from dear colleague letters. (Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association)
Box-Steffensmeier, J. M., Christenson, D. P., & Hitt, M. P. (2013b). Quality over quantity: Amici influence and judicial decision making. American Political Science Review, 107 (3), 115.
Box-Steffensmeier, J. M., Christenson, D. P., & Morgan, J. W. (2013c). The frailty exponential random graph model. (Paper presented at the Annual Political Networks Conference)
Box-Steffensmeier, J. M., Christenson, D. P., & Ratlif, L. (2013d). The role of interest group networks in executive branch nominations. (Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association)
Carpenter, D. P., Esterling, K. M., & Lazer, D. M. J. (1998). The strength of weak ties in lobbying networks: Evidence from health care politics. Journal of Theoretical Politics, 10, 417444.
Collins, P. M. (2004). Friends of the Court: Examining the influence of amicus curiae participation in US Supreme Court litigation. Law & Society Review, 38 (4), 807832.
Collins, P. M. (2008). Friends of the supreme court: Interest groups and judicial decision making. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Cook, C. (1984). Participation in public interest groups. American Politics Research, 12 (4), 409430.
Cranmer, S., & Desmarais, B. (2011). Inferential network analysis with exponential random graph models. Political Analysis, 19 (1), 6668.
Desmarais, B., & Cranmer, S. (2012). Micro-level interpretation of exponential random graph models with application to estuary networks. Policy Studies Journal, 40 (3), 402434.
, D&B. (2010). Million dollar database. Dun and Bradstreet. (Online Directory)
Dunleavy, P. (1988). Group identities and individual influence: Reconstructing the theory of interest groups. British Journal of Political Science, 18 (01), 2149.
Edelman, M. (1964). The symbolic uses of politics. Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press.
Esterling, K. M. (2004). The political economy of expertise: Information and efficiency in american national politics. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Faust, K., & Skvoretz, J. (2002). Comparing networks across space and time, size and species. Sociological Methodology, 32 (1), 267299.
Fertuck, L. (1975). A test of industry indices based on sic codes. Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, 10 (5), 837848.
, Gale. (2010). Gale associations unlimited. Encyclopedia of Business Information Sources. (Online Directory)
Gibson, J. L. (1997). United states supreme court judicial data base, phase ll: User's guide [Computer software manual]. NewYork: Peter Lang.
Goldstein, J., & Keohane, R. O. (1993). Ideas and foreign policy: beliefs, institutions, and political change. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Goodreau, S. M., Handcock, M. S., Hunter, D. R., Butts, C. T., & Morris, M. (2008). A statnet tutorial. Journal of Statistical Software, 24 (9), 126.
Goodreau, S. M., Kitts, J. A., & Morris, M. (2009). Birds of a feather, or friend of a friend? using exponential random graph models to investigate adolescent social networks*. Demography, 46 (1), 103125.
Gower, J. (1966). Some distance properties of latent root and vector methods used in multivariate analysis. Biometrika, 53 (3–4), 325338.
Gray, V., & Lowery, D. (1996). A niche theory of interest representation. Journal of Politics, 58, 91111.
Greve, H. R. (1999). The effect of core change on performance: Inertia and regression toward the mean. Administrative Science Quarterly, 44 (3), 590614.
Grier, K., Munger, M., & Roberts, B. (1991). The industrial organization of corporate political participation. Southern Economic Journal, 57 (3), 727738.
Grier, K., Munger, M., & Roberts, B. (1994). The determinants of industry political activity, 1978–1986. American Political Science Review, 88 (4), 911926.
Grier, K., Munger, M., & Torrent, G. (1990). Allocation patterns of PAC monies: The US senate. Public Choice, 67 (2), 111128.
Grossmann, M. (2013). The variable politics of the policy process: Issue-area differences and comparative networks. The Journal of Politics, 75, 6579.
Gugerty, M. K., & Prakash, A. (2010). Conclusions and future research: Rethinking advocacy organizations. In Prakash, A., & Gugerty, M. K. (Eds.), Advocacy organizations and collective action (pp. 283294). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hannan, M., & Freeman, J. (1989). Organizational ecology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard.
Hannan, M. T., & Freeman, J. (1977). The population ecology of organizations. American Journal of Sociology, 82 (5), 929964.
Hannan, M. T., & Freeman, J. (1984). Structural inertia and organizational change. American Sociological Review, 49 (2), 149164.
Hansen, J. (1985). The political economy of group membership. The American Political Science Review, 79 (1), 7996.
Harris, J. K. (2014). An introduction to exponential random graph modeling, volume 173. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Heaney, M. T. (2014). Multiplex networks and interest group influence reputation: An exponential random graph model. Social Networks, 36 (1), 6681.
Heaney, M. T., & Lorenz, G. M. (2013). Coalition portfolios and interest group influence over the policy process. Interest Groups and Advocacy, 2 (3), 251277.
Hojnacki, M. (1998). Organized interests' advocacy behavior in alliances. Political Research Quarterly, 51 (2), 473–459.
Holyoke, T. T. (2003). Choosing battlegrounds: Interest group lobbying across multiple venues. Political Research Quarterly, 56 (3), 325336.
Hula, K. (1995). Rounding up the usual suspects: Forging interest group coalitions. In Cigler, A. J., & Loomis, B. A. (Eds.), Interest group politics (4th ed.). Washington, DC: CQ Press.
Hunter, D., Goodreau, S., & Handcock, M. (2008). Goodness of fit of social network models. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 103 (481), 248258.
Hunter, D., & Handcock, M. (2006). Inference in curved exponential family models for networks. Journal of Computational and Graphical Statistics, 15 (3), 565583.
Johnson, R., Kovacs, B., & Vicsek, A. (2012). A comparison of email networks and off-line social networks: A study of a medium-sized bank. Social Networks, 34 (4), 462469.
Keck, M. E., & Sikkink, K. (1998). Activists beyond borders: Advocacy networks in international politics (Vol. 35). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kingdon, J. W. (1981). Congressmen's voting decisions (2nd ed.). New York: Harper & Row.
Knoke, D. (1994). Political networks: The structural perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Koger, G., & Victor, J. N. (2009). The beltway network: A network analysis of lobbyists' donations to members of congress. (Prepared for presentation at the Midwest Political Science Association Meetings)
Krebs, V. (2002). Mapping networks of terrorist cells. Connections, 24 (3), 4352.
LaPira, T. M., Thomas, H. F., & Baumgartner, F. R. (2009). The structure and stability of lobbying networks in washington. (Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association)
Lecy, J. D., Mitchell, G. E., & Schmitz, H. P. (2010). Advocacy organizations, networks, and the firm analogy. In Prakash, A., & Gugerty, M. K. (Eds.), Advocacy organizations and collective action (pp. 283294). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Leighley, J. (1996). Group membership and the mobilization of political participation. The Journal of Politics, 58 (02), 447463.
Lewis, K., Kaufman, J., Gonzalez, M., Wimmer, A., & Christakis, N. (2008). Tastes, ties, and time: A new social network dataset using Social Networks, 30, 330342.
Lowery, D. (2007). Why do organized interests lobby? A multi-goal, multi-context theory of lobbying. Polity, 39 (1), 2954.
Mahoney, C. (2004). The power of institutions: State and interest-group activity in the european union politics. European Union Politics, 5 (4), 441466.
Mayhew, D. R. (1974). Congress: The electoral connection. New Haven: Yale University Press.
McPherson, M. (1983). An ecology of affiliation. American Sociological Review, 48 (4), 519532.
McPherson, M., Smith-Lovin, L., & Cook, J. M. (2001). Birds of a feather: Homophily in social networks. Annual Review of Sociology, 27, 415444.
Moe, T. (1981). Toward a broader view of interest groups. The Journal of Politics, 43 (02), 531543.
Olson, M. (1971). The logic of collective action: Public goods and the theory of groups, second printing with new preface and appendix (Harvard economic studies).
Opsahl, T. (2013). Triadic closure in two-mode networks: Redefining the global and local clustering coefficients. Social Networks, 35 (2), 159167.
Powell, W. W., White, D. R., Koput, K. W. & Owen-Smith, J. (2005). Network dynamics and field evolution: The growth of interorganizational collaboration in the life sciences1. American Journal of Sociology, 110 (4), 11321205.
Prakash, A., & Gugerty, M. K. (2010). Advocacy organizations and collective action. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Risse, T. (2010). Rethinking advocacy organizations? a critical comment. In Prakash, A., & Gugerty, M. K. (Eds.), Advocacy organizations and collective action (pp. 283294). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Robins, G., Pattison, P., Kalish, Y., & Lusher, D. (2007a). An introduction to exponential random graph (p*) models for social networks. Social Networks, 29 (2), 173191.
Robins, G., Snijders, T., Wang, P., Handcock, M., & Pattison, P. (2007b). Recent developments in exponential random graph (p*) models for social networks. Social Networks, 29, 192215.
Salisbury, R. (1969). An exchange theory of interest groups. Midwest Journal of Political Science, 13 (1), 132.
Schlozman, K. L., & Tierney, J. T. (1986). Organized interests and american democracy. New York: Harper and Row.
Scott, J. C. (2007). The social embeddedness of lobbying. (Presented at Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association)
Skocpol, T., Ganz, M., & Munson, Z. (2000). A nation of organizers: The institutional origins of civic voluntarism in the united states. American Political Science Review, 94 (3), 527546.
Smith, D. (2000). Grassroots associations. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.
Snijders, T., Pattison, P., Robins, G., & Handcock, M. (2006). New specifications for exponential random graph models. Sociological Methodology, 36 (1), 99153.
Snijders, T., & Van Duijn, M. (2002). Conditional maximum likelihood estimation under various specifications of exponential random graph models. In Contributions to social network analysis, information theory, and other topics in statistics; A festschrift in honour of Ove Frank (pp. 117–134). Stockholm: Department of Statistics, University of Stockholm.
Truman, D. B. (1951). The governmental process: Political interests and public opinion (1st ed.). New York: Knopf.
Walker, J. (1983). The origins and maintenance of interest groups in america. The American Political Science Review, 77 (2), 390406.
Wang, P., Sharpe, K., Robins, G., & Pattison, P. (2009). Exponential random graph (p*) models for affiliation networks. Social Networks, 31 (1), 1225.
Wasby, S. (1995). Race relations litigation in an age of complexity. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press.
Wasserman, S., & Faust, K. (1994). Social network analysis: Methods and applications. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Whitford, A. B. (2003). The structures of interest coalitions: Evidence from environmental litigation. Business and Politics, 5 (1), 4564.
Wilson, J. Q. (1973). Political organizations. New Jersey: Princeton University.
Wimmer, A., & Lewis, K. (2010). Beyond and below racial homophily: Erg models of a friendship network documented on facebook1. American Journal of Sociology, 116 (2), 583642.


Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Comparing membership interest group networks across space and time, size, issue and industry*



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.