The Project

Interest groups are important players in liberal democracies. Trade unions seek influence on labour market politics, business groups are active in debates on market regulation and environmental groups try to make climate policy a central governmental priority. Studying which groups are successful in influencing policy is a core issue for political science (Christiansen et al. 2004; Dür & De Bièvre 2007; Jordan et al. 2004). Interest groups operate in complex political environments and are active in relation to the bureaucracy, parliament, and the media. While the administrative arena has traditionally played the most central role for interest group influence in European countries, the media and the parliament have in recent decades become increasingly important arenas. Consequently, it is particularly relevant to examine whether these arenas give access to previously low influence groups – or whether the same groups are successful across different arenas.

This project aims to explain the influence of interest groups in the administrative, the parliamentary and the media arena. An explicit focus on the interplay between different arenas will allow us to answer a range of questions not systematically addressed in the existing literature: 1) To what extent is group influence cumulative across arenas? 2) Are different resources relevant for gaining influence in different arenas? 3) How do characteristics of political issues affect group influence in different arenas? 4) What variation exists over time and across countries in the influence of groups in different arenas? Answering these questions is fundamental to enhancing our knowledge about interest group influence.

A central challenge is conceptualizing and measuring group influence. The project contributes to recent efforts (see Baumgartner et al. 2009; Dür & De Bièvre 2007; Mahoney 2009) to tackle the issue of group influence by incorporating three different operationalizations of influence: 1) quantitative indicators of group positions, 2) comparisons of group goals with political outputs, and 3) attributed results. This will allow a more robust measurement than relying on a single measure of influence. In explaining group influence in different arenas, the project draws on resource exchange theory. From this perspective, groups gain influence in exchange for resources valued by bureaucrats, politicians and reporters. Factors expected to affect group influence can be identified at the group level, at the level of the issues that groups seek to influence, and at the system level. The research design includes three countries: Denmark, the UK and Germany selected on the basis of variation at the system level.

Project documentation

Project description

Interest group categories

Survey frequencies
Codebook administrative consultations

Codebook public committees

Codebook media
Codebook deputations to parliament

Codebook letters to parliament