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News Citations

The influence of interest groups in Congress is determined by a number of techniques. One way to exercise influence is to shape the public debate by conveying the group's message through the media.[1] Once the public views an issue as important, the more likely Congress is to take action on that specific issue. As a way of characterizing the relative power of a group, I tabulated the number of times major newspapers mentioned, cited, or quoted each group.

I searched each group's name in LexisNexis Academic, an online database from Lexis-Nexis, from June 1, 2004 to May 31, 2006. The results provide a sense of how often news articles across the country quoted, mentioned, or cited each group in the recent past.

All names were searched in "General News" category with the source set to "Major Newspapers." Lexis-Nexis describes "Major Newspapers" as the top 50 circulating newspapers. They further limit the field with this restriction: "newspapers published outside the United States must be in English language and listed as a national newspaper in Benn's World Media Directory or one of the top 5% in circulation for the country."[2] Selecting "Major Newspapers" instead of looking for references in local papers helped to screen for national media attention.

Before conducting the search, the time period was set to "06/01/2004 - 05/31/2006." I parsed the dates and searched in segments when the search exceeded the LexisNexis Academic imposed 1,000 citation hit limit. This was necessary for only 37 groups, as most of the 411 organizations garnered fewer than 1,000 legitimate newspaper mentions.

In many cases, the name of the organization did not uniquely identify the group. For example, a search on Third Millennium found many articles, but the phrase did not relate to the activities of the group or cite the group specifically. Particularly troublesome were those named with only one word like The Arc, Infact, and TASH. For each, I used modifying words to filter out irrelevant articles. Most often, adding the words "lobby! OR nonprofit OR organization OR advocacy OR think tank" (to be found in the same paragraph) sufficiently filtered the previous results due to the fact that most quotations are explained by describing the affiliation of the speaker or the cause of the organization.

Occasionally, manual review was necessary to verify that all of the hits were relevant to the search. Due to lack of time and staff, only spot checking was used to ensure that most of the references were to the interest group in question. A limited number of organizations, as a result, may be inaccurately represented.

Mathematical data

Mean: 380.22 citations per group
Median: 74 citations

Percentiles: 10th Percentile are those with 960+ citations.
30th Percentile are those with 226-959 citations.
60th Percentile are those with 42-225 citations.
Those without indication are below the 60th Percentile mark (0-41 citations).

Due to the nature of the data, grouping the results into percentiles minimizes errors in collecting.

The most often cited groups were: (all with 4,000+)
1. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
2. The American Legion
3. American Association for Retired Persons (AARP)
4. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
5. Amnesty International
6. American Cancer Society
7. Sierra Club

Twenty-three groups were least cited with 0 hits each within this search. Those included 20/20 Vision, Alliance for the Separation of School and State, American Association of Birth Centers, American Immigration Control Foundation, American Reform Party, Americans United for Affirmative Action, Association of Multiethnic Americans, Campaign for the Regulation and Restoration of Hemp, Center for Media Education, Center for Study of Responsive Law, Christian Action Network, Citizens for Roadside Safety, Constitution Action Party, DefenseUSA Coalition, Demilitarization for Democracy, Friends of Tobacco, Hispanas Organized for Political Equity, Men's Defense Association, Mothers Against Fathers in Arrears, National Association for the Education of Young Children, National Center for Law & Economic Justice, New Liberal Society, and Socialist Labor Party of America.

1. Terkildsen, Nayda, Frauke I. Schnell, and Cristina Ling. "Interest Groups, the Media, and Policy Debate Formation: An Analysis of Message Structure, Rhetoric, and Source Cues." Political Communication 15 (1998): 45-61.

2. "Tips." Online. LEXIS-NEXIS Academic Universe. 1 December 1999.

- Originally written by Kathi Carlisle Fountain, 2006