Department of Computational Social Science Seminar-VICTOR

Friday, October 25, 3:00 p.m.
Center for Social Complexity Suite
Research Hall, Third Floor

Bridging the Information Gap: Legislative Member Organizations as Social Networks in the United States and elsewhere

Jennifer Victor
Assistant Professor
Public and International Affairs
George Mason University

ABSTRACT: Why do legislators invest scarce time and resources into forming and maintaining voluntary groups that provide few obvious benefits? Legislative member organizations (LMOs)—such as caucuses in the US Congress and intergroups in the European Parliament (EP)—exist in numerous law-making bodies around the world. Yet unlike parties and committees, LMOs play no obvious and pre-defined role in the legislative process. “Bridging the Information Gap” argues that LMOs provide legislators with opportunities to establish social relationships with colleagues with whom they share a common interest in an issue or theme. The social networks composed of these relationships, in turn, offer valuable opportunity structures for the efficient exchange of policy-relevant information between legislative offices. Building on classic insights from the study of social networks, the authors demonstrate that LMO networks are composed of weak, bridging ties that cut across party and committee lines, thus providing lawmakers with access to otherwise unattainable information and make all members of the network better informed. Building on a comparative approach, the book provides an overview of the existence of LMOs across advanced, liberal democracies and offers two nuanced case studies of LMOs in the European Parliament and the U.S. Congress. These case studies rely on a mixed method set-up that garners the respective strengths of social network analysis, sophisticated statistical methods, and careful qualitative analysis of a large number of in-depth interviews.

Professor Victor holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from Washington University in St. Louis (2003). She joined the faculty at George Mason University (Department of Public and International Affairs) in fall 2012. Professor Victor was on the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh from 2003-2012 as an Assistant Professor of Political Science. In 2005 she served as an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow, where she worked for Senator Kent Conrad. Her research has been published in the American Journal of Political Science, the British Journal of Political Science, P.S.: Politics & Political Science, American Politics Research, and elsewhere. At George Mason University she teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on American politics and legislative politics.