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Interest Group Competition and Coalition Formation


  • Earlier versions of this article in different forms were presented at the 2003 annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association and the 2004 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Chicago. I would like to thank Steve Balla, Jeff Cummins, Chris Deering, Michael Heaney, Jeff Henig, Marie Hojnacki, Melanie Ram, Lee Sigelman, and John Wright for their comments at various stages of this project. I would also like to thank the Centennial Center at the American Political Science Association for time and resources to work on it, the Empirical Implications of Theoretical Models (EITM) seminars in 2004 and 2005 at Washington University for exposing me to the strategic probit model, and the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences at The George Washington University for funding.

Thomas T. Holyoke is Assistant Professor of Political Science, California State University, Fresno, 2225 East San Ramon M/S MF19, Fresno, CA 93740-8029 (


This article investigates how interest group competition, a state of conflicting policy preferences stemming from how organizational memberships are defined, can resolve into conflict or cooperation. The strategic choices of competing lobbyists are modeled as the results of a trade-off between the need to represent members and please legislators, and the additional advocacy resources they hope to gain by agreeing to form coalitions with their competitors rather than fight them in resource-draining conflicts. Hypotheses derived from the model are tested with data from interviews with lobbyists on six issues taken up by the U.S. Congress from 1999 to 2002. The results suggest that while group members do have some limited power to constrain the policy positions taken on issues by their lobbyists, it is primarily the pressures from legislators and competitor groups that push lobbyists into collectively supporting coalition positions different from those desired by their members.