Edward Walker

Professor of Sociology, University of California, Los Angeles
Areas of Expertise:

About Edward

Walker’s research focuses on social movements, the political mobilization and influence of business, and organizational and organizing processes. His primary area of work involves understanding how businesses have adopted grassroots organizing practices, as well as the ways that social movement groups and community organizations challenge companies, governments, and other institutions. He is also interested in the politics of health and health care, contention surrounding energy politics and the environment, and corporate social responsibility. He has consulted with community organizations and foundations, and has taken part in efforts to build bridges between university research and the needs of local communities.

In the News

Edward Walker quoted on political lobbying by vape industry by Angelica LaVito, "Juul Hires ‘Political Dark Arts’ Firm Led by Ex-Clinton Campaign Director in Its Fight for Survival" CNBC, October 1, 2019.
Edward Walker quoted on Juul's controversial lobbying campaign by Angelica LaVito, "Vaping Company Juul Recruits Customers for Shadow Grassroots Lobbying Campaign in Fight For its Survival" CNBC, October 1, 2019.
"From Their Use in Businesses to Political Campaigns, We Look at the Phenomenon of Paid Protesters," Edward Walker, Interview with Larry Mantle, "AirTalk", October 31, 2018.
Edward Walker quoted by James Rufus Koren, "Paid Protesters? They're Real — and a Beverly Hills Firm that Hires Them Stands Accused of Extortion in a Lawsuit" Los Angeles Times, October 21, 2018.
Edward Walker quoted by Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, "Astroturfing" HBO, August 12, 2018.
Edward Walker's research on public opinion discussed by Michael Hobbes, "The Selling Of Judge Brett Kavanaugh," Huffington Post, July 21, 2018.
Edward Walker quoted by Benjamin Elgin and Zachary Mider, "Fossil Fuels' Fishy New Friends" Bloomberg Businessweek, November 16, 2017.
Edward Walker quoted on hotels' public call to mobilize against Airbnb by Katie Benner, "Inside the Hotel Industry’s Plan to Combat Airbnb" New York Times, April 16, 2017.
Edward Walker quoted on Democratic-led protests and social movements by Ronald J. Hansen, "Republicans Face Demands for Town Hall Congressional Recess" The Arizona Republic, February 25, 2017.
Guest to discuss "Shopping as a Political Act" on The 1A, Edward Walker, February 22, 2017.
Edward Walker quoted on political boycott of ride-sharing services by Marissa Lang and Carolyn Said, "Biz & Tech" San Francisco Chronicle , January 30, 2017.
Edward Walker quoted on corporate ethics and politics by David Ng, "For Cirque, Disney and Others, Does Standing up for LGBT Rights Require Ethical Acrobatics?" Los Angeles times, May 27, 2016.
Edward Walker quoted on tech-companies attempts to influence government by Carolyn Said, "Uber, Lyft Pullout in Austin Shows Political Prowess" San Francisco Chronicle, May 11, 2016.
Edward Walker quoted on the marketing strategy of sharing-economy firms by Cecilia Kang, "Airbnb Takes Its Case to U.S. Mayors Conference" New York Times, January 21, 2016.
Edward Walker quoted on the image of tech companies by Davey Alba, "This Was the Year Tech Became the Bad Guy" Wired, December 30, 2015.
Edward Walker quoted by Kristen Brown, "Meet the Apptivists: The Volunteer Lobbyists Helping Keep Airbnb, Uber, and Other Startups Alive" Fusion, November 16, 2015.
Edward Walker quoted on the share economy controversy by Carolyn Said, "Airbnb, Uber: ‘We are the Saviors of the Middle Class’" San Francisco Chronicle, November 10, 2015.
Edward Walker quoted on grassroots mobilization by Airbnb by Carolyn Said, "Airbnb to Mobilize Users Nationwide to Lobby for Its Model" San Francisco Chronicle, November 4, 2015.
Edward Walker quoted on grassroots campaigning by Airbnb by Biz Carson, "Airbnb is fighting a critical war in its own back yard this week" Business Insider, November 2, 2015.
Edward Walker quoted on the business of producing crowds on demand by Kieron Monks, "The lucrative business of crowds for hire" CNN, October 16, 2015.
Edward Walker quoted on lobbying by startup firms by Justin Rohrlich, "Why Can't Startup Companies Get U.S. Government Contracts?" Vice, September 24, 2015.
Edward Walker's research on how documentaries affect social change discussed by "Do Documentaries Make a Difference?," Boston Globe, September 13, 2015.
Edward Walker's research on documentary films as sources of social change discussed by Tom Jacobs, "A Fracking Effective Film," Pacific Standard, September 3, 2015.
Edward Walker's research on the impact of the anti-fracking movement discussed by "Gasland: HBO Documentary Key Driver of Opposition to Fracking, Study Finds," The Guardian, September 2, 2015.
Edward Walker quoted on social movements and social media by Dan Frosch and Scott Calvert, "A Year After Ferguson, ‘Black Lives Matter’ Still Wields Influence" Wall Street Journal, August 10, 2015.
"The Uber-ization of Activism," Edward Walker, New York Times, August 6, 2015.
"Expanding the Scope of 'Activism'," Edward Walker, Mobilizing Ideas, August 5, 2015.
Edward Walker quoted on grassroots lobbying regulations by Emily Green, "Measure Seeks to Reveal Names, Funding behind Indirect Lobbying" San Francisco Chronicle, August 3, 2015.
Edward Walker quoted on soda tax ballot measures, "Who's Killing the Soda Taxes?" Healthy Magazine, July 16, 2015.
Edward Walker quoted on grassroots lobbying by the hotel industry by Reity O'Brien, "In Cities and States across the U.S., It's the Hotel Industry versus Airbnb" Mashable, July 15, 2015.
Edward Walker quoted by Alex Hertel-Fernandez, "Who Owns Your Politics? The Emergence of Employee Mobilization as a Source of Corporate Political Influence" New America Foundation, July 6, 2015.
Edward Walker quoted by Lee Drutman and Steven Teles, "Why Congress Relies on Lobbyists Instead of Thinking for Itself" The Atlantic, March 10, 2015.
"Beyond the Rhetoric of the 'Sharing Economy'," Edward Walker, Contexts, February 24, 2015.
Edward Walker quoted on lobbying and political expenditures by Erin Quinn and Chris Young, "DC Influencers Spend More on Advertising and PR than Lobbying" Time, January 15, 2015.
Edward Walker quoted on the lobbying strategies of a new generation of businesses by Carolyn Said, "Uber, Lyft, Airbnb Harness Users to Lobby Lawmakers for Them" San Francisco Chronicle, January 11, 2015.
"How Business Funded the Anti-Soda Tax Coalition," Edward Walker, The Washington Post, November 24, 2014.
"If You Can Fake Spontaneity You Have It Made: Five Key Questions about the Grassroots Industry," Edward Walker, Interview with Henry Farrell, Washington Post, June 2, 2014.
Edward Walker's research on organizing discussed by Laura Legere, "With United Shale Advocates, the Marcellus Shale Coalition Bets on a 'Citizens' Movement'," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 25, 2014.
Guest to discuss “Grassroots Movements versus the Machine” on Huffpost Live, Edward Walker, September 6, 2012.
"Grass-Roots Mobilization, by Corporate America," Edward Walker, New York Times, August 11, 2012.
"Grassroots, Astroturf, and Industry Activism," Edward Walker, Interview with Jon Smajda, The Society Pages, July 15, 2010.
Edward Walker's research on non-membership advocacy organizations discussed by Jessica Ruvinsky, "The Evolution of Membership," Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2012.


"The Political Mobilization of Firms and Industries" (with Christopher M. Rea). Annual Review of Sociology 40 (2014): 281-304.

Provides a systematic review of the research literature on the strategies firms and industry groups deploy in order to advance their interests. Discusses how these strategies fit into business and broader political contexts.

"Please in My Backyard: Quiet Mobilization in Support of Fracking in an Appalachian Community" (with Colin Jerolmack). American Journal of Sociology 124, no. 2 (2018).

Bases research upon ethnographic observations of Central Pennsylvania residents. Questions conventional wisdom that what are often seen as "locally unwanted land uses" are, in fact, accurately described as such.

"'No Fracking Way!' Documentary Film, Discursive Opportunity, and Local Opposition against Hydraulic Fracturing in the United States, 2010 to 2013" (with Ion Bogdan Vasi, John S. Johnson, and Hui Fen Tan). American Sociological Review 80, no. 5 (2015): 934-959.

Provides evidence that the anti-fracking documentary "Gasland" both shifted public discourse surrounding fracking and also encouraged communities to protest against the practice. Shows how these protests, in turn, influenced a community's likelihood of enacting a ban or moratorium on fracking. 

"Pediatric Care Provider Density and Personal Belief Exemptions from Vaccine Requirements in California Kindergartens" (with Christopher M. Rea). American Journal of Public Health 106, no. 7 (2016): 1336-1341.

Shows that there is a strong contextual association between Personal Belief Exemption rates and contexts of medical care, such that schools nearby high densities of family medical doctors tend to have higher Personal Belief Exemption rates. Reflects some combination of physician effects and self-selection.

Grassroots for Hire: Public Affairs Consultants in American Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 2014).
Shows how, spurred by the post-1960s explosion of new advocacy organizations and rising business political engagement, elite consultants have learned how to deploy new technologies to commercialize mass participation. Uses evidence from interviews, surveys, and public records to paint a detailed portrait of these consultants, their clients, and the effects of their campaigns on participation and policymaking.
"Signaling Responsibility, Deflecting Controversy: Strategic and Institutional Influences on the Charitable Giving of Corporate Foundations in the Health Sector" Research in Political Sociology 21 (2013): 181-214.
Examines influences on the charitable giving of corporate foundations associated with the largest firms in health-related industries in the U.S., finding that their giving is influenced by the giving of other non-corporate foundations in the health sector as well as by controversies faced by the foundation’s corporate parent and also the firm’s financial and directorship characteristics.
"Replacing Members with Managers? Mutualism among Membership and Non-Membership Advocacy Organizations in the U.S." (with John D. McCarthy and Frank R. Baumgartner). American Journal of Sociology 116 (2011): 1284-1337.
Discusses associations with a professional staff but no members (non-membership advocacy organizations, or NMAOs); finds that there has not been a significant proportional increase in the population of such groups since the 1960s, and that membership and non-membership groups often play complementary and supportive roles in advocacy fields.
"Legitimacy, Strategy, and Resources in the Survival of Community-Based Organizations" (with John D. McCarthy). Social Problems 57 (2010): 315-340.
Examines the longevity of Community-Based Organizations between 1990-2004 and finds that beyond the considerable effects of externally obtained resources, CBOs also benefit substantially by engaging in even a small amount of grassroots fundraising, as well as by making efforts to signal their legitimacy to local communities.
"Privatizing Participation: Civic Change and the Organizational Dynamics of Grassroots Lobbying Firms" American Sociological Review 74, no. 1 (2009): 83-105.
Examines the founding of Grassroots Lobbying Firms (GLFs) that mobilize public participation on behalf of paying organizational clients such as corporations and industry associations using direct mail, phone banking, and other communications technologies as the field expanded in dramatic fashion in the closing decades of the 20th century; finds that these consulting firms were founded primarily in response to the changing advocacy environment and in line with expanding business political activity.
"Confronting the State, the Corporation, and the Academy: The Influence of Institutional Targets on Social Movement Repertoires" (with Andrew W. Martin and John D. McCarthy). American Journal of Sociology 114, no. 1 (2008): 35-76.
Employs a unique data set of protests reported in the New York Times (1960-90) to examine how the tactics of protest groups are, in part, contingent on the institutional target a movement selects. Protest groups deploy significantly more radical tactics when targeting corporations or educational institutions than they do when protesting government policies.