Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic-Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.

Source: Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens | Perspectives on Politics | Cambridge Core

The elite and some organized groups control much of the public discussion. The effect is that of propaganda messaging. While the public ultimately casts their votes, their voting is driven by the propaganda messaging of the elite and the large organized groups.

While it may look like the public is having a voice, their voices are in reality controlled by the elite.

When the public thinks it has won a policy decision from the government, frequently this is as a side effect as “coincidental beneficiaries”.

Also, your “title” and position really do impact your ability to be a true elite: “Income and wealth tend to be positively correlated with other dimensions of elite status, such as high social standing and the occupancy of high-level institutional positions, but they are not the same thing.”

Merely having a high income does not make you elite – you need the “high social standing and the occupancy of a high-level institutional positions”. In other words, the MD, PhD titles, the executive vice president title, and so on.

Their conclusion:

Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.

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