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When does a group of citizens influence policy? Evidence from senior citizen participation in city politics

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When does a group of citizens influence public policy? Mainstream American politics research emphasizes the importance of the group’s presence in the electorate, while other scholars argue that group cohesiveness, organization, and nonvoting political activity are potentially more important. These two strands of the literature have largely developed in parallel, in part because they tend to employ different empirical methods. In this article, I attempt to bridge the divide between them and test these ideas within the same empirical framework, using senior citizens and senior-friendly transportation policy as a test case. My results show that senior voting does not unconditionally predict policies friendlier to seniors. Instead, I find that city policies are friendlier to seniors when seniors are a more cohesive, meaningful group and when they engage in activities other than voting. Moreover, when seniors are a cohesive group, their share of the electorate does matter for policy outcomes.

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