By what measures can the political power of an organization be estimated?


I asked this question earlier: Which is more dangerous to US democracy: Far-left or far-right ideologies? and after thinking about the comments received, I realized that I should start with some underlying questions. Mainly, what measures are commonly used to estimate the political power of an organization? For example, in a history of health insurance in the US I recently read, the author claims that the power of the American Medical Association has decreased since the 1930s. In general, given that the indicators of political power might be very different depending on the group of interest, what would one look at to make such an estimate of of any organization, be it an official political party or the girl scouts?

I did see this post: What methodologies of measuring the power of the state are researched today? but it seems to primarily address power at a national/global level.


Posted 2018-07-11T18:14:51.843

Reputation: 353

1Hate to break it to you, but the Girl Scouts of America is a 'political organization', among other things. I'm not saying that is all it is, but policy advocacy is a stated effort or goal of the organization... – CGCampbell – 2018-07-13T11:47:20.783

lol I didn't say that it wasn't; I just implied that it's not a political party... unless there's a council member or state senator somewhere running as a candidate of the Girl Scouts of USA party? – SavoryMax – 2018-07-13T13:00:58.123



I'm posting this as Community Wiki so others can add to this.

Traditional Measures

  1. The number of people in the organization, both as measured in dues paying members or volunteers, and employees. This measure should be fairly self-evident; if a movement exists rather than an astroturf organization, it will be most conspicuous in the number of people it can mobilize. Related is the ability to get out the vote or motivate to action third-party actors that are only softly related to the movement or organization.
  2. The amount of resources, especially money, the organization can lay claim to and bring to bear on campaigns and messaging.
  3. The number of "wins" at the policy level the organization has achieved, such as championing legislation, regulations, pro se or other litigation and other actions that have tangible results on the law.
  4. The ability to viewed as an expert (cited in the press, appears on talkshows, webpage visits.) as the result of policy papers, experience, and/or research.
  5. The ability to change the culture through influence, communications, social media, events and symbols. Tangentially related to the ability to move the Overton Window.
  6. The ability to keep things from being talked about, reported in the news, and/or otherwise scrutinized.

K Dog

Posted 2018-07-11T18:14:51.843

Reputation: 1

Generally good. 1, 2, and 3 are more or less numerical. Though it would be tough comparing one in Canada, say, with one in USA. Would item 4 be where such groups as the Southern Poverty Law Center fit? How would 5 or 6 be measured and compared? For 5, for example, how would you compare 4chan vs some think tank. – None – 2018-07-11T19:21:35.730

14 would be for industry groups, like the American Banking Association, and think tanks like Cato or Heritage. You could measure 5 through changing opinion polls; think of changing attitudes of gay marriage. 6 would be really hard to measure. Sometimes it's even hard to observe. Literally the dog that didn't bark in the night. – K Dog – 2018-07-11T19:27:04.593

I think the inverse of 6 is pretty easy to measure, and probably provides a reasonable hint. I think most of the direct uses of 6 are governments, and so probably better placed in the other question. – None – 2018-07-11T20:14:37.920

As a reminder, wikis are not exempt from the back-it-up principle. – indigochild – 2018-07-11T20:18:26.880

@notstoreboughtdirt I was thinking of two examples: 1) Harvey Weinstein being able to keep under wraps through intimidation, linkage directly to reporters and politicians his numerous abuses, and 2) Communist Party USA preventing an astonishingly high number of movies being made in America from 1945-1990s, but they were directly linked to the USSR. – K Dog – 2018-07-11T20:19:43.967

There are also a few clear religious examples, various political machines and of course Streisand's attempt is legendary, but I would generally classify 6 as a special extreme case of the inverse. – None – 2018-07-11T20:37:38.190

Tacking onto @puppetsock's question, are absolute numbers more or less important than per capita ones? Does regionalism fit into these numbers (i..e. is a large political group in California more or less powerful than a moderately-large one with membership throughout the South or East, or would you need more information?) – ErikF – 2018-07-11T20:54:22.603

I'm concerned that this answer is a list of suggestions that doesn't appear to be based in experience or fact (as evidenced by not being backed up). I'm also pretty skeptical of this "overton window". I searched through some databases, it's pretty much only mentioned it publications by the Mackinac Center (the group Overton ran). It seems less like a real, valid measure and more like the stuff you read in airport self-help books. – indigochild – 2018-07-17T15:49:26.037


To provide a context we can utilize Tip O'Neill's sage observation as to the domain of politics

All politics is local

  1. Institutionalization. Institutionalization of core mission, interests and goals. Charismatic leaders and executives are finite. Institutions have no definitive end.

  2. Property. Property and capital ownership is a prerequisite for a political base of power. Without property ownership an organization has no base of power. An institution can acquire, lose ownership and reacquire, hold, liquidate and transfer real and intellectual property.

  3. Culture. Consistent and sustained human activity manifesting the organizations' institutionalized core mission, interests and goals.

  4. Fear. Without palpable fear of reprisal from, litigation against, and confrontation with the organization rivals and competitors will have no reason to believe that a hostile takeover of the organization will not be cost effective. The organization must counterbalance this necessity with, if at all possible, avoidance of hatred, which can endure.

  5. Love. A currency within political economy is being loved from within and without. Charity, rewards, and extraordinary recognition are several forms of love which the organization can bestow upon their constituents and the public at large. A counterbalance to fear and hatred.

Using the above five basic parameters a comparative analysis could begin by asking

  1. Has the organization historically survived adversity and expanded its influence?

  2. What is the organizations' total assets and liabilities?

  3. Is the organizations' internal culture susceptible to external influences and to what extent has the culture of the organization spread to other organizations and the public at large compared to the organizations' rivals and competitors?

  4. Has the organization filed lawsuits to assert rights, defended against whistle-blowers, competitors and other opposing third-parties and what percentage of the organizations' resources are allocated to its legal and lobbying divisions?

  5. Does the organization give to charities, provide rewards to its constituents for extraordinary conduct within the organization, has the organization historically retained and increases constituents and what percentage of the organizations' resources are allocated to public relations and constituent acquisition divisions?

which should each provide quantitative data to review and assess as to the power of the organization within the sector of human activity which the organization operates.


Posted 2018-07-11T18:14:51.843

Reputation: 1

Can any of this be backed-up? – indigochild – 2018-07-17T15:44:47.677

2@indigochild Yes, by means of political experience. Have you bothered to ask and answer the questions presented at the answer as to any organization? In which way is the result of such questions and answers deficient? Or, are you simply criticizing the list items and approach illustrated at the answer without providing any reason for such criticism? "any of this" lacks all degree of specificity. What precisely are you referring to? – guest271314 – 2018-07-18T01:29:29.343

You appear to be relatively new across several SE sites. All sites have slightly different norms. Here, answers should be backup up. Please include something in your answer that backs it up. – indigochild – 2018-07-18T03:31:55.137

@indigochild Are you purposefully ignoring the fact that stated the answer is substantiated by means of decades of political experience. Expertise in the domain of politics and measurement of political power. Not theory, facts. You have failed to specify precisely what you are refuting in the answer. – guest271314 – 2018-07-18T04:40:12.263

2Personal experience is often a great way to back up an answer. However, you need to edit that in for it to matter. – indigochild – 2018-07-18T04:53:12.657

@indigochild You asked "Can any of this be backed-up?" and were provided with an answer to that inquiry. The facts presented in the original answer stands on its own. – guest271314 – 2018-07-18T04:54:58.670

2Sorry guest, that isn't how things work here on SE. Comments are temporary, anything material is expected to be within the text of the answer. – indigochild – 2018-07-18T04:59:09.803

@indigochild "Sorry guest, that isn't how things work here on SE." You have the answer to your inquiry. There is no need to state from where the knowledge came. Apply basic outline described at the answer. Or not. Am not here to appease SE or critics of answers. Again, the content of the answer stands on its own. If you want then attribute the answer to this user, which is enough. Am an independent individual who does not need to cite others for own thought or conclusions. – guest271314 – 2018-07-18T05:00:45.937

4@guest271314 You must be aware that just because someone claims "decades of experience" on the internet doesn't really mean anything to anyone else. Abraham Lincoln once also had some sage advice: "Just because someone on the internet says that Tip O'Neil said something doesn't make it true." – Jeff Lambert – 2018-07-18T15:39:43.977