Affluence and Policy Influence in Advanced Democracies

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Recent scholarship argues that affluence begets policy influence, thereby questioning whether contemporary democracy lives up to its key promise of formal political equality. A strong empirical emphasis of this scholarship, however, has left fundamental analytical issues unresolved with implications for the conclusions. In this article, I develop an analytical framework in order to solve two central, unresolved issues: (1) the representational implications of formal political equality, and (2) the necessary conditions for policy influence. I first apply the framework to reanalyze the original data of three cross-national studies, and then to analyze a new dataset covering 23 advanced democracies between 1985 and 2016. The analysis demonstrates that the current comparative work greatly exaggerates the policy influence of the affluent, and instead points to the optimistic conclusion that advanced democracies generally fulfil the democratic creed of ‘one person, one vote’.