Skip to main content
Log in

Lobbying and policy conflict: explaining interest groups’ promiscuous relationships to political parties

  • Original Article
  • Published:
Interest Groups & Advocacy Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

Do interest groups prefer to interact with party political supporters or opponents, and why do they do so? Recent research has provided different explanations and mixed findings for this question, highlighting the role of institutional contexts and differences between interests. Here, we focus on the effects of issue-level factors instead. We hypothesize that higher levels of conflict lead interest groups to lobby both supporters and opponents. Our argument emphasizes that the reason to do so lies in interest groups’ desire to gain or maintain prominence within a policy subsystem, rather than in persuasion attempts. Analyzing quantitative and qualitative data on the lobbying targets for 80 Dutch interest groups on more than 300 issues, we find support for our theoretical claims. When the level of conflict is high, prominence often trumps persuasion. These findings suggest that interest groups, by contacting many different parties, can contribute to policy making in positive ways.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1

Similar content being viewed by others

Notes

  1. Additionally, the power of US policymakers has been identified as another factor shaping lobbying patterns in Congress (Hojnacki and Kimball 1998, 1999; Kingdon 1989; Wright 1990). Legislators’ power, however, is considered an additional—rather than a moderating or mediating—factor that leaves the initial relationship between positional alignment and lobbying activity intact.

  2. Naturally, there are other characteristics that issues differ on, such as the distinction between distributive, redistributive, and regulatory issues (Lowi 1964) or their technical complexity (e.g., Dür 2008; Dür and De Bièvre 2007; Klüver 2013). However, we think that these distinctions are of secondary importance when explaining interest group decisions on whom to lobby, as their impact on the exchange relationship between groups and parties is unclear. For example, providing legislative subsidy is relevant irrespective of the type and complexity of an issue.

  3. We find that this measure is correlated with a number alternative specifications of party polarization; more specifically, these are measurements based on linking our issues to party manifesto data following Klüver (2018), or on the (partial) information on party positions as provided by our interview respondents. However, we consider our measurement the most valid one, given that these alternative operationalizations bring a number of additional conceptual and empirical challenges, for instance, related to the dimensionality of the policy conflict.

  4. The authors translated all quotes. The original quotes can be found in Appendix in ESM.

References

  • Austen-Smith, D. 1993. Information and Influence: Lobbying for Agendas and Votes. American Journal of Political Science 37 (3): 799–833.

    Google Scholar 

  • Austen-Smith, D., and J.R. Wright. 1992. Competitive Lobbying for a Legislator’s Vote. Social Choice and Welfare 9 (3): 229–257.

    Google Scholar 

  • Austen-Smith, D., and J.R. Wright. 1994. Counteractive Lobbying. American Journal of Political Science 38 (1): 25–44.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bauer, R.A., I.D.S. Pool, and L.A. Dexter. 1963. American Business and Public Policy: The Politics of Foreign Trade. Chicago: Aldine-Atherton.

    Google Scholar 

  • Baumgartner, F.R., and B.D. Jones. 1993. Agendas and Instability in American Politics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Baumgartner, F.R., and B.L. Leech. 2001. Interest Niches and Policy Bandwagons: Patterns of Interest Group Involvement in National Politics. The Journal of Politics 63 (4): 1191–1213.

    Google Scholar 

  • Berkhout, J. 2013. Why Interest Organizations Do What They Do: Assessing the Explanatory Potential of ‘Exchange’ Approaches. Interest Groups & Advocacy 2 (2): 227–250.

    Google Scholar 

  • Berkhout, J. 2015. Codebook for websites of interest organizations: Why interests organize on only some issues. Retrieved from https://ssrn.com/abstract=3275296

  • Berkhout, J., M. Hanegraaff, and A. Wonka. 2018. “If a Fight Starts, Watch the Crowd”: Business Bias and the Expansion of Conflict. In Presented at the ECPR General Conference, Hamburg.

  • Berry, J.M. 1999. The New Liberalism: The Rising Power of Citizen Groups. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution.

    Google Scholar 

  • Beyers, J., R. Eising, and W. Maloney. 2008. Researching Interest Group Politics in Europe and Elsewhere: Much We Study, Little We Know? West European Politics 31 (6): 1103–1128.

    Google Scholar 

  • Beyers, J., and M. Hanegraaff. 2016. Balancing Friends and Foes: Explaining Advocacy Styles at Global Diplomatic Conferences. The Review of International Organizations 12 (3): 461–484.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bouwen, P. 2004. Exchanging Access Goods for Access: A Comparative Study of Business Lobbying in the European Union Institutions. European Journal of Political Research 43 (3): 337–369.

    Google Scholar 

  • Browne, W.P. 1990. Organized Interests and Their Issue Niches: A Search for Pluralism in a Policy Domain. The Journal of Politics 52 (2): 477–509.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brunell, T.L. 2005. The Relationship Between Political Parties and Interest Groups: Explaining Patterns of PAC Contributions to Candidates for Congress. Political Research Quarterly 58 (4): 681–688.

    Google Scholar 

  • Crombez, C. (2002). Information, lobbying and the legislative process in the European Union. European Union Politics, 3(1), 7–32.

    Google Scholar 

  • De Bruycker, I. 2016. Power and Position: Which EU Party Groups Do Lobbyists Prioritize and Why? Party Politics 22 (4): 552–562.

    Google Scholar 

  • de Wilde, P., A. Leupold, and H. Schmidtke. 2016. Introduction: The Differentiated Politicisation of European Governance. West European Politics 39 (1): 3–22.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dür, A. 2008. Interest Groups in the European Union: How Powerful Are They? West European Politics 31 (6): 1212–1230.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dür, A., P. Bernhagen, and D. Marshall. 2015. Interest Group Success in the European Union: When (and Why) Does Business Lose? Comparative Political Studies 48 (8): 951–983.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dür, A., and D. De Bièvre. 2007. The Question of Interest Group Influence. Journal of Public Policy 27 (01): 1–12.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dür, A., and G. Mateo. 2016. Insiders Versus Outsiders: Interest Group Politics in Multilevel Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gray, V., and D. Lowery. 1996. Environmental Limits on the Diversity of State Interest Organization Systems: A Population Ecology Interpretation. Political Research Quarterly 49 (1): 103–118.

    Google Scholar 

  • Green-Pedersen, C. 2012. A Giant Fast Asleep? Party Incentives and the Politicisation of European Integration. Political Studies 60 (1): 115–130.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gullberg, A.T. 2008. Lobbying Friends and Foes in Climate Policy: The Case of Business and Environmental Interest Groups in the European Union. Energy Policy 36 (8): 2964–2972.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hacker, J.S., P. Pierson, and K. Thelen. 2015. Drift and Conversion: Hidden Faces of Institutional Change. In Advances in Comparative-Historical Analysis, ed. J. Mahoney and K. Thelen, 180–208. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hall, R.L., and A.V. Deardorff. 2006. Lobbying as Legislative Subsidy. The American Political Science Review 100 (1): 69–84.

    Google Scholar 

  • Halpin, D. 2011. Explaining Policy Bandwagons: Organized Interest Mobilization and Cascades of Attention. Governance 24 (2): 205–230.

    Google Scholar 

  • Halpin, D.R., and B. Fraussen. 2017. Conceptualising the Policy Engagement of Interest Groups: Involvement, Access and Prominence. European Journal of Political Research 56 (3): 723–732.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hanegraaff, M., and J. Berkhout. 2019. More Business as Usual? Explaining Business Bias Across Issues and Institutions in the European Union. Journal of European Public Policy 26 (6): 843–862.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hansen, J.M. 1991. Gaining Access: Congress and the Farm Lobby. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hojnacki, M., and D.C. Kimball. 1998. Organized Interests and the Decision of Whom to Lobby in Congress. American Political Science Review 92 (04): 775–790.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hojnacki, M., and D.C. Kimball. 1999. The Who and How of Organizations’ Lobbying Strategies in Committee. The Journal of Politics 61 (4): 999–1024.

    Google Scholar 

  • Holyoke, T.T. 2003. Choosing Battlegrounds: Interest Group Lobbying across Multiple Venues. Political Research Quarterly 56 (3): 325–336.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hutter, S., and E. Grande. 2014. Politicizing Europe in the National Electoral Arena: A Comparative Analysis of Five West European Countries, 1970–2010: Politicizing Europe in the national electoral arena. JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 52 (5): 1002–1018.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hutter, S., E. Grande, and H. Kriesi (eds.). 2016. Politicising Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kingdon, J.W. 1989. Congressmen’s Voting Decisions, 3rd ed. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Klüver, H. 2013. Lobbying in the European Union. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Klüver, H. 2018. Setting the Party Agenda: Interest Groups, Voters and Issue Attention. British Journal of Political Science 1–22.

  • Klüver, H., and I. Sagarzazu. 2016. Setting the Agenda or Responding to Voters? Political Parties, Voters and Issue Attention. West European Politics 39 (2): 380–398.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kollman, K. 1997. Inviting Friends to Lobby: Interest Groups, Ideological Bias, and Congressional Committees. American Journal of Political Science 41 (2): 519–544.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lindblom, C.E. 1968. The Policy-Making Process. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lowery, D., C. Poppelaars, and J. Berkhout. 2008. The European Union Interest System in Comparative Perspective: A Bridge Too Far? West European Politics 31 (6): 1231–1252.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lowi, T.J. 1964. American Business, Public Policy, Case-Studies, and Political Theory. World Politics 16 (04): 677–715.

    Google Scholar 

  • Marshall, D. 2010. Who to Lobby and When: Institutional Determinants of Interest Group Strategies in European Parliament Committees. European Union Politics 11 (4): 553–575.

    Google Scholar 

  • Marshall, D. 2015. Explaining Interest Group Interactions with Party Group Members in the European Parliament: Dominant Party Groups and Coalition Formation: Explaining Interest Group Interactions with Party Group Members. JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 53 (2): 311–329.

    Google Scholar 

  • McKay, A., A.W. Chalmers, B.L. Leech, P. Bernhagen, J. Berkhout. 2018. Who Is Represented? Interest Group Agendas and Public Agendas. In Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Boston.

  • Mood, C. 2010. Logistic Regression: Why We Cannot Do What We Think We Can Do, and What We Can Do About It. European Sociological Review 26 (1): 67–82.

    Google Scholar 

  • Offe, C. 1981. The Attribution of Public Status to Interest Groups: Observations on the West German Case. In Organizing Interests in Western Europe, ed. S.D. Berger, 123–158. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Olson, M. 1982. The Rise and Decline of Nations. New Haven: Yale University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Otjes, S., and A. Rasmussen. 2017. The Collaboration Between Interest Groups and Political Parties in Multi-Party Democracies: Party System Dynamics and the Effect of Power and Ideology. Party Politics 23 (2): 96–109.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pappi, F.U., and C.H. Henning. 1998. Policy Networks: More than a Metaphor? Journal of Theoretical Politics 10 (4): 553–575.

    Google Scholar 

  • Polk, J., J. Rovny, R. Bakker, E. Edwards, L. Hooghe, S. Jolly, and M. Zilovic. 2017. Explaining the Salience of Anti-elitism and Reducing Political Corruption for Political Parties in Europe with the 2014 Chapel Hill Expert Survey Data. Research and Politics 4 (1): 1–9.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schattschneider, E.E. 1960. The Semisovereign People: A Realist View of Democracy in America. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schlozman, K.L., and J.T. Tierney. 1986. Organized Interests and American Democracy. New York: Harper and Row.

    Google Scholar 

  • Van Der Brug, W., G. D’Amato, D. Ruedin, and J. Berkhout. 2015. The Politicisation of Migration. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wessels, B. 2004. Contestation Potential of Interest Groups in the EU: Emergence, Structure, and Political Alliances. In European Integration and Political Conflict, ed. G. Marks and M.R. Steenbergen, 195–215. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wright, J.R. 1990. Contributions, Lobbying, and Committee Voting in the U.S. House of Representatives. The American Political Science Review 84 (2): 417–438.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

We would like to acknowledge the stimulating research environment provided by the Agendas and Interest Groups project. In particular we would like to thank Amy McKay, Beth Leech, Patrick Bernhagen, and Adam Chalmers for their inspiring discussions throughout the project. Great research assistance for this article was provided by Max Joosten, Anne Poolman, Vincenzo Gomes, and Robin Verheij.

Funding

Funding was provided by Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (Open Research Area Grant No. 464-15-148).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Patrick Statsch.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 36 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Statsch, P., Berkhout, J. Lobbying and policy conflict: explaining interest groups’ promiscuous relationships to political parties. Int Groups Adv 9, 1–20 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41309-019-00072-x

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/s41309-019-00072-x

Keywords

Navigation