This thesis explores the role of think tank research in Members of Congress’s public facing communication. I theorize that legislators’ policy preferences already exist and shape the think tank research they choose to discuss instead of think tank research shaping these policy preferences. Many scholars seek to understand the influence of think tanks on policy, but, in doing so, have overlooked the rhetorical use of think tank information by Members of Congress. By addressing these channels of communication through analyzing public facing communicative platforms including Twitter, Facebook, and Floor Speeches, I hope to contribute to think tank research in understanding how these institutions shape, or do not shape, Members of Congress’s policy preferences in policy-making.

Using a mixed methodological approach, I find that think tanks are a recurring and prominent feature of Members of Congress’s public facing communications and that legislators not only cite think tanks with ideology that aligns with their own, but also cite think tanks with opposite ideological makeup. These findings are consistent with my theoretical argument that Members of Congress tend to cite think tanks to reaffirm existing policy preferences; whether that be through positive or negative rhetoric in their citations of think tanks. These results have important implications for the ways that think tanks are understood in the policy-making process and the influence that research has on Members of Congress’s policy preferences.


van Doorn, Bas


Political Science


Think Tanks, Political Communication, Policymaking, Congress

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis Exemplar



© Copyright 2019 Shana E. Zelenka