Paul Burstein is a Professor of Sociology and an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Washington. In his 2014 book, American Public Opinion, Advocacy, and Policy in Congress: What the Public Wants and What It Gets, Burstein analyzes congressional action on a random sample of policy proposals and finds that public opinion has little impact on Congress, not because special interests are so powerful, but because on most issues the public has no opinions. Burstein also finds that public political activity intended to influence congressional action on specific policies has little impact, mainly because on most issues there is too little public political activity to matter.

Barry Glassner is the President of Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. Previously, Glassner served as the Executive Vice Provost and a Professor of Sociology at the University of Southern California. Glassner is the author or co-author of 10 books, including The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things, originally published in 1999 and updated in 2010, which exposes the people and organizations that manipulate our perceptions and profit from our fears, including advocacy groups that raise money by exaggerating the prevalence of particular diseases and politicians who win elections by heightening concerns about crime, drug use, terrorism, and other matters.

Jeff Manza is a Professor of Sociology at New York University. Manza has authored or co-authored dozens of publications, including the books: Social Cleavages and Political Change: Voter Alignments and U.S. Party Coalitions (1999), Locked Out: Felon Disenfranchisement and American Democracy (2006), and, most recently, Whose Rights? Counterterrorism and the Dark Side of American Public Opinion (2013). He has also published scholarly work on other election-related topics such as the right to vote and political inequality in America, voter turnout, and the impact of religion and gender on voting.

Clayton Peoples is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Nevada-Reno. His primary scholarly interests lie in campaign finance and political corruption. In particular, he focuses on the ties between campaign contributors and politicians and how these relationships impact policy. He has authored or co-authored a number of publications on this topic, including the 2010 paper, “Contributor Influence in Congress: Social Ties and PAC Effects on U.S. House Policymaking,” and the 2008 papers, “The Impact of Campaign Contributions on Policymaking in the U.S. and Canada: Theoretical and Public Policy Implications,” and “Uncovering Political Influence by Using Network Analyses and Exploring Contribution/Party Interactions: The Case of Ohio Legislative Voting.”