Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Mark G. Borzi


The most important variable in a decision making situation is the role of information. On the strength of information received, choice between competing alternatives is made. One decision making situation that receives intense scrutiny, and is a subject of much debate is the passage of bills into laws. Legislative decisions are arrived at in a highly charged political environment. This paper explores the role of information and informants in the legislators' institutional and environmental arena, and the personal characteristics of the legislators that influence the decision making process.

The proceedings of the 89th Illinois General Assembly was observed and the data analyzed from the perspective of the legislators and lobbyists.

The study reveals that the structural aspects of the legislative environment play a significant factor in influencing the lawmakers' decisions. Legislators rely most on insider sources of information with peer influence playing the most important role. Legislators turn to colleagues, specifically, committee members for knowledgeable and trusted information. Legislators select information that is congruent with their experiences, belief system and attitudes. Personal attributes together with colleagues who validate those ideologies held by the legislator, thus, becomes the contributing factor in influencing legislative strategies.

Politically relevant information, that is information received from constituents, media, and leadership is also utilized. These agents have the power to influence the political goals of the elected officials. Source valence is, therefore, relatively high in the legislative environment. Policy information is not extensively sought by the legislators as the credibility of the source is transferred to the message.

Lobbyists, however, have a personal stake in the passage of a particular piece of legislation. They seek and provide thorough information. Lobbyists view themselves as an influencing force promoting legislation, while lawmakers view lobbyists as only informational providers.

Decision making in the legislative environment is a complex activity. The flow of information is multidirectional, and the manner in which legislators make decisions is conditional on the individual legislator's personal attributes, the institutional characteristics, and the environmental factors.