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Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  112 ratings  ·  10 reviews
Why policymaking in the United States privileges the rich over the poor

Can a country be a democracy if its government only responds to the preferences of the rich? In an ideal democracy, all citizens should have equal influence on government policy--but as this book demonstrates, America's policymakers respond almost exclusively to the preferences of the economically advan
Hardcover, 329 pages
Published July 22nd 2012 by Princeton University Press (first published January 1st 2010)
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Dec 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
I chanced to come across this book while watching an interview with the author on TV. The subject matter and the interview were interesting and it made me want to read the book. Soon after starting to read it, I realized that it is actually aimed more at academics than lay readers like me. The book contains extensive use of Regression Analysis, concepts like Net Interest Group Alignment Index and measurement of many variables related to this subject. Though it is not an easy read, one can still ...more
Billie Pritchett
Oct 19, 2014 rated it liked it
Martin Gilens's book Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America is a very important book that is not very fun to read. It is sort of an extended version of a paper that Gilens coauthored with Benjamin Page. Gilens and Page released a study titled "Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Privilege" (available HERE), which created quite a controversy with its findings. The study's finding concluded that verifiably only the interests of A ...more
Flora Horvath
Jun 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The link between political inequality and income level in the US is a no-brainer: outsize power tends to accrue where economic elites move serious money. In his study Gilens does a fine job of presenting how this contemporary shift from democracy to plutocracy emerged here and now. Though it’s an accepted reality that affluence moves political change (more specifically, independent, large expenditures made by individuals and businesses move policy), it’s mind-blowing to digest the side-by-side d ...more
Mills College Library
320.60973 G471 2012
Aug 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: society-politics
- Winner of the 2016 AAPOR Book Award, American Association for Public Opinion Research
- Winner of the 2013 Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award, American Political Science Association
- One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles Top 25 Academic Books for 2013
- from Princeton University Press

This book analyzes policy preferences of the nation's majority, and the preferences of demographic groups including income strata, and compares that to whether polices similar to those are enacted within 4 years
John Lathers
Sep 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
A really excellent piece that attempts to draw together a wealth of recent studies and original statistical analysis into a useful narrative for policymakers. Warning: The book reads very much like a dry text book, so be prepared for a bit of a slog. Also, some knowledge of statistics would be very useful for the reader. This piece seems really only for people who want to get a nuanced understanding of Gilens' work. For others, several articles and summaries are readily available to provide the ...more
Jul 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Don't get me wrong, this is an excellent book, but if you've read Gilens's 2005 Public Opinion Quarterly article and his more recent "oligarchy" article with Ben Page, there's not much new here. That said, the book does offer a very detailed and systematic review of his methodology and offers a great example of how to do excellent social science research. ...more
Apr 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
The rigorously compiled but deeply depressing story of the control of the US political system by the top 1% of voters by income. Shows how nothing actually gets passed that is contrary to their interests and just how little influence the average voter has on legislation. Short on solutions but long on the problem.
Sep 29, 2012 rated it liked it
better off just reading the 30 page journal article than the whole damn book
Apr 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
My initial thought is that this book will probably do more than about anything else to blackpill me on electoralism. Gilens is a stats guy and writes with a lot of academic poli-sci language, but couched in that jargon is the conclusion that we basically live in a plutocracy. There is essentially zero correlation between the preferences of poor and middle-income Americans and the policy enacted by lawmakers. Policy correlates pretty strongly with the preferences of Americans at the 90th percenti ...more
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Martin Gilens is Professor of Politics at Princeton University. His research examines representation, public opinion, and mass media, especially in relation to inequality and public policy.

Professor Gilens is the author of Affluence Influence Economic Inequality and Political Power in America (2012, Princeton University Press) and Why Americans Hate Welfare Race Media and the Politics of Antipover

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