Under the influence: Has MADD's policy agenda limited the Elks' capability to create social capital?

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


Grant Davis Reeher


Social capital, Civic engagement, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks, Driving under the influence (DUI), Public policy, Driving under the influence

Subject Categories

Political Science | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Public Policy | Social and Behavioral Sciences


This is a cautionary tale about the unintended consequences of a "good government" policy. Two questions are addressed: First, has strict enforcement of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) laws limited the capability of traditional voluntary associations, like the Elks, to foster the creation of social capital among its members? Second, could this be an outcome of the interplay between the modern administrative state and the leveraging of state action by a professionalized interest group, like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)?

Why is this important? Many voluntary associations still provide a meaningful democratic experience for the citizens of small communities, while also offering a vital sphere for building social capital and civic engagement. Ultimately, if one accepts that civic engagement is a precursor to political engagement, then the exploration of "good government" policies inadvertently contributing to declining social capital and civic engagement should shed light on declining political participation.

To get at this empirically, two analyses were undertaken--one comparing DUI arrest rates and Elk membership rates over a 20-year period for 27 U.S. states and the other analyzing the content of 55 telephone interviews conducted with Elk exalted rulers in Florida and California. The data reveals a possible negative association between DUI arrest rates and Elk membership rates for 27 states from 1981 to 1984, and there is a possible negative association between the number of MADD Chapters and Elk membership rates in several U.S. states during the early part of the 1980s. These results coincide with MADD's federally-supported crackdown on drunk driving. Interview data supports these findings.

There are two key conclusions from the study. First, there is some evidence that the fear of being arrested for driving drunk has contributed to declining Elk membership in some states during the 1980-2000 period. Second, this might shed light on the development of the modern administrative state during these two decades. It could be an example of modern professionalized interest groups like MADD leveraging state action to the detriment of some traditional voluntary associations like the Elks.


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