Technocratic or democratic interest representation? How different types of information affect lobbying success

Abstract

What type of information helps interest advocates get their way? While it is widely acknowledged in the academic literature that information provision is a key aspect of lobbying, few scholars have directly tested the effect of information on lobbying success. Policymakers need information both on technical aspects and public preferences to anticipate the effectiveness of a policy proposal and electoral consequences. However, scholars have found that interest groups predominantly provide the former rather than the latter, which suggests that technical information is seen as more efficient. The paper argues that lobbying success is not solely a function of the provision of any information but of the specific type of information and its composition. It furthermore argues that the relevance of different information types for lobbying success depends on issue characteristics such as public opinion, salience or complexity. Relying on new original data of advocacy activity on 50 specific policy issues in five West European countries, the paper highlights that the provision of expert information increases the likelihood of lobbying success, while the effect of information about public preferences is, if anything, negative. The study ultimately contributes to our understanding of informational lobbying, interest representation and interest group influence.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Influence here is referred to as lobbying success (Mahoney 2008; Rasmussen et al. 2018), which does not assume causality but allows to gauge who wins and who loses with regard to shaping public policy.

  2. 2.

    www.govlis.eu.

  3. 3.

    Denmark: Politiken and Jyllands-Posten; Germany: Sueddeutsche Zeitung and Frankfurther Allgemeine Zeitung; Netherlands: De Volkskrant and NRC Handelsblad; Sweden: Dagens Nyheter and Svenska Dagbladet; United Kingdom: The Guardian and The Telegraph.

  4. 4.

    One could argue that it may be difficult for survey respondents to clearly distinguish between the two types of information as technical arguments can also include a normative judgment. De Bruycker (2016) compares how often interview respondents indicated to have used different information types to how often such information types have been identified using hand-coding and comes to the same conclusion, which suggests that respondents can identify different information types.

  5. 5.

    This resembles a measure used by Dür and Mateo (2013) to calculate the relative inside strategy compared to outside strategies by interest groups.

  6. 6.

    As an indicator of the extent to which the actor could rely on public expressions of support, one could potentially also use a variable asking how important respondents considered organising protests or other activities mobilising the public. All analyses have been run using such an alternative measure instead, which, however, does not alter the results (see Appendix H in Supplemental Online Material).

  7. 7.

    An intercoder reliability test on the same sample resulted in a Krippendorff’s alpha of 0.92 in distinguishing these different actor types (effective n = 50, 2 raters).

  8. 8.

    See Appendix E for alternative model specification in Supplemental Online Material.

  9. 9.

    The correlation between these two variables is 0.52, but not problematic (Vif < 2).

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Acknowledgements

Funding was provided by Det Frie Forskningsråd (DK) (Grant No. Sapere Aude Grant/0602-02642B) and Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (Grant No. VIDI Grant/452-12-008). The author would like to thank Anne Rasmussen, Wiebke Marie Junk and Jeroen Romeijn for their valuable advice and support. She would also like to thank Adrià Albareda, Ellis Aizenberg, Iskander de Bruycker, Marcel Hanegraaff, Moritz Müller, Patrick Statsch. The manuscript also benefitted from comments received at the ECPR General conference 2018, Hamburg as well as the NIG conference 2018, Den Haag. Finally, the author wishes to thank several GovLis student assistants for their contributions to the data collection.

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Flöthe, L. Technocratic or democratic interest representation? How different types of information affect lobbying success. Int Groups Adv 8, 165–183 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41309-019-00051-2

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Keywords

  • Interest groups
  • Information
  • Public opinion
  • Lobbying
  • Representation