Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

Organized Interests' Advocacy Behavior in Alliances

Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

Organized Interests' Advocacy Behavior in Alliances

Article excerpt

In this article I examine how the characteristics of a coalition can affect the incentives an organization has to contribute to a collective advocacy effort. Although groups working in coalition have opportunities to freeride on the efforts of their allies, the opportunity to develop a reputation as an advocate may provide a selective incentive to contribute. Reputations are important because of the information they convey to potential allies about how groups are likely to behave in an alliance. But for reputation to serve as a selective incentive, a groups advocacy contribution must be easy for its allies to observe. Thus, only in coalitions that are designed to make groups' advocacy contributions conspicuous will a decision to free-ride be a costly strategy to employ Based on data I collected about organizations' coalitional advocacy activity on five issues, I show that groups in a coalition are less likely to free-ride when their advocacy activities are coordinated and when they interact often with their alliance partners.

When an organized interest is working with other groups as part of a coalition, it must decide how much it will contribute to the coalition's advocacy effort. Some organizations will contribute in a very limited way, other groups will make a moderate contribution, while other alliance members will expend substantial effort on behalf of the coalitions they join.

An understanding of the forces affecting these contribution decisions is important. If we know how groups choose to behave in the coalitions they join and why they make these choices, we gain knowledge about how groups with shared issue preferences interact to achieve their political goals and how organizations overcome the problems of collective action that arise when they work in coalition.

Previous studies suggest that groups' contributions to the alliances they join are determined by their resource capabilities, their goals, and the extent of opposition they encounter on issues. But because organized interests have opportunities to shirk the advocacy activities they are responsible for performing on behalf of a coalition and free-ride on the efforts of their allies, it is important to consider whether selective incentives are available to discourage free-riding.

In this article I argue that it is possible to design advocacy coalitions so that groups' opportunities to develop reputations as advocates provide them with an incentive to contribute rather than free-ride. Reputations are valuable to organized interests because of the information they convey to potential allies about how groups are likely to behave in a coalitional advocacy campaign. Because reputations are dependent on observable behavior, the selective incentive reputation provides will be strongest in coalitions where groups' contributions as advocates are easily observed by other alliance members. Coalition members' contributions are expected to be conspicuous when an alliance is small, there is regular and frequent interaction among members, and there are leaders present to coordinate the actions of member groups. In coalitions that have these characteristics, the actions of individual groups can be monitored and there will be accountability among coalition members for their advocacy activities so that free-riding is a costly strategy to employ The reputation of an alliance member that is observed to be shirking its contribution to a coalition is likely to be adversely affected, limiting its ability to coalesce effectively on subsequent issues. The results of my empirical analysis support my argument and most of my expectations.


When an organization chooses to join a coalition to take action on an issue, it must decide how extensively to participate in the coalition's advocacy effort.l As a member of an alliance, a group may contribute in a very limited way (e. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.