Loose Cannons or Loyal Foot Soldiers? Toward a More Complex Theory of Interest Group Advertising Strategies

MICHAEL M. FRANZ, ERIKA FRANKLIN FOWLER, AND TRAVIS N. RIDOUT
AMERICAN JOURNAL OF POLITICAL SCIENCE (2015). ADVANCED ONLINE PUBLICATION. DOI: 10.1111/ajps.12241

Abstract: Recent court decisions have encouraged new types of interest groups to become involved in election campaigns. Yet questions remain about whether interest group sponsorship of advertising affects the content of the issues being discussed. The ability of interest groups to influence the campaign agenda has implications for the extent to which politicians can be held accountable by citizens. In this research, we present a new conceptual framework for explaining variation in interest group advertising strategies and examine the factors leading different types of interest groups to be loose cannons (diverging from the issue debates among candidates) or loyal foot soldiers (matching the candidates’ issue debates). We find more evidence of loyal foot soldier behavior among new multi-issue interest groups and among Republican groups and candidates. Fears of interest groups “hijacking” campaign agendas appear unfounded.