Martin Gilens

Professor of Public Policy, Political Science, and Social Welfare, University of California-Los Angeles
Chapter Member: Los Angeles Unified SSN
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About Martin

Martin Gilens is Chair of the Department of Public Policy and Professor of Public Policy, Political Science, and Social Welfare at UCLA. His research examines representation, public opinion, and mass media, especially in relation to inequality and public policy. Professor Gilens is the author of Affluence & Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America, and Why Americans Hate Welfare: Race, Media and the Politics of Antipoverty Policy, and coauthor (with Benjamin I. Page) of Democracy in America?: What Has Gone Wrong and What We Can Do about It.


In the News

Martin Gilens's research on Paul Street, "The ‘Values,’ ‘Vision,’ and ‘Democracy’ of an Inauthentic Opposition," Consortium News, May 3, 2018.
Martin Gilens quoted by Sergio Alejandro Gómez, "The United States is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy" Granma, April 4, 2018.
Martin Gilens quoted by Michaela Collord, "Critiques of Elite Power aren’t Antisemitic or Conspiratorial – They are Necessary" Red Pepper, April 3, 2018.
Elizabeth Rigby quoted by Dylan Matthews, "Studies: Democratic Politicians Represent Middle-Class Voters. GOP Politicians Don’t." Vox, April 2, 2018.
Martin Gilens quoted by Alessandro Bruno, "The Erosion of the Middle Class Marks the End of the American Dream" Lombardi Letter, March 20, 2018.
Martin Gilens quoted by Yascha Mounk, "America is Not a Democracy" Hot Air, February 1, 2018.
Martin Gilens quoted on portrayals of the nation's poor by Tracie McMillan, "What Do We Think Poverty Looks Like?" New York Times, July 8, 2017.
Martin Gilens quoted on the impact the preferences of economic elites have on public policy by Joe Magruder, "My Turn: The Candidate Who Really Scares the Establishment" Concord Monitor, October 20, 2015.
Martin Gilens quoted on the policy views of different socioeconomic classes by Michael Tomasky, "The Hard-Right Swerve of the Super Rich" Daily Beast, October 13, 2015.
Martin Gilens quoted on congressional voting patterns by Thomas B. Edsall, "How Did the Democrats Become Favorites of the Rich?" New York Times, October 7, 2015.
Martin Gilens quoted on how policymakers favor big business, "New Research Shows Just How Much Presidents Try to Manipulate Public Opinion" The Washington Post, August 9, 2015.
Guest to discuss whether Congress cares more about the political interests of regular American citizens as much as those of their affluent donors on Slate's The Gist, Martin Gilens, June 17, 2015.
Martin Gilens's research on four theories for explaining who's shaping policy in the U.S. discussed by Boer Deng, "The Silver Lining to Our Oligarchy," Slate, April 24, 2014.
Interview on how majority-rule democracy exists only in theory in the United States Martin Gilens (with Benjamin I. Page), Talking Points Memo, April 22, 2014.
Martin Gilens's research on the relative political influence of U.S. citizens at different income levels (with Benjamin I. Page) discussed by Larry Bartels, "Rich People Rule!," Washington Post, April 8, 2014.
"Under the Influence," Martin Gilens, Lead Essay, Boston Review, July/August 2012.
"The Anti-Entitlement Strategy," Martin Gilens, New York Times, December 25, 2011.
Martin Gilens quoted on income inequality, "Notes on Income Inequality" The Washington Post, October 12, 2011.
"Taxes and the Tyranny of the Minority," Martin Gilens, New York Times, September 20, 2011.


"Descriptive Representation, Money, and Political Inequality in the United States" Swiss Political Science Review 21, no. 2 (2015): 222-228.
Argues that the primary reason that policymakers in the U.S. cater to the preferences and interests of the well-to-do is the outsize role of money in American politics.
"Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens" (with Benjamin I. Page). Perspectives on Politics 12, no. 3 (2014): 564-581.
Discusses four theoretical traditions in the study of American politics—which can be characterized as theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy, Economic-Elite Domination, and two types of interest-group pluralism, Majoritarian Pluralism and Biased Pluralism— that offers different predictions about which sets of actors have how much influence over public policy: average citizens; economic elites; and organized interest groups, mass-based or business-oriented.
Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America (Princeton University Press and the Russell Sage Foundation, 2012).

Examines the disproportionate influence of affluent Americans over government policy, showing that the ability of the well-off to influence political decision-making has grown over time, but that impending elections and strong partisan competition in Congress can help produce policies that are more broadly responsive to the public as a whole.

"Inequality and Democratic Responsiveness" Public Opinion Quarterly 69, no. 5 (2005): 778-796.
Reports the core findings of the Affluence & Influence project.
"Corporate Ownership and News Bias: Newspaper Coverage of the 1996 Telecommunications Bill" (with Craig Hertzman). Journal of Politics 62, no. 2 (2000): 369-386.
Finds that newspapers owned by corporations that stood to gain most from this landmark legislation provided much more positive coverage of the legislation and neglected critical concerns that were contained in coverage by other newspapers.
Why Americans Hate Welfare: Race, Media, and the Politics of Anti-Poverty Policy (University of Chicago Press, 1999).
Explores the racialization of poverty in America, and role of the media in perpetuating stereotypes of African Americans as the “undeserving poor.” Also shows that news coverage of poverty during hard times is both more sympathetic to the poor and less likely portray the poor as black.