When one hears the word “oligarch,” one might think of the Russian billionaires who control the production of petroleum, natural gas and metal, and as a result, wield a disproportionate amount of power in Putin’s Russia.
But one might also think of the United States, where the term “corporate oligarchy” is sometimes applied to describe the kind of power that financial lobbyists hold over democratically elected officials.
If you believe this is a cynical view to take on American democracy, consider the findings of a massive study to be published in Political Research Quarterly next month. Based on responses from 90,000 people, the survey examined the behavior of U.S. Senators in the 107th through 111th Congresses. Here’s what it found:
In all of the five Congresses examined, the voting records of Senators were consistently aligned with the opinions of their wealthiest constituents. The opinions of lower-class constituents, however, never appeared to influence the Senators’ voting behavior.
The neglect of lower income groups was a bipartisan affair. Democrats were not any more responsive to the poor than Republicans.
According to Thomas J. Hayes of Trinity University, even if Americans do not easily come to identify with a particular class, “this does not mean that politicians representing these citizens do not respond to them in this manner.”
Read more about the survey here.
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