This article explores the role of organized interests in congressional elections by examining the influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA) in contested House races in 1994 and 1996. Most research on the electoral impact of organized interests reports that groups have a negligible impact on the outcome. Yet anecdotal evidence regarding NRA influence abounds, particularly in 1994. We construct an aggregate model of congressional vote share that allows us to systematically analyse the electoral impact of the NRA in 1994 and 1996 House races. Unlike previous research of this sort, we provide evidence that the NRA can have a statistically discernible effect on election outcomes, but not in all elections and for all candidates. The NRA endorsement was particularly helpful to Republican challengers in 1994 (and to some extent Republican incumbents), but much less helpful to Democrats. These effects are much reduced in 1996 for all candidates. Likewise, having lots of NRA members in the district helped Republican challengers the most (in 1994) and Democrats not at all. Finally, reasons as to why the NRA was able to amplify but not mitigate the party trend, as well as individual-level mechanisms that might produce an endorsement effect, are discussed.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science