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Do consultations matter for stakeholder support for policy proposals? Evidence from the European Union

Democracy
Governance
Policy-Making
EU17
Adriana Bunea
Universitetet i Bergen
Idunn Nørbech
Universitetet i Bergen

Tuesday 15:00 - 16:30 GMT (16/04/2024)

Abstract

Speakers: Adriana Bunea and Idunn Nørbech, University of Bergen While fundamental for proponents of participatory governance and democratic innovations, this relationship is generally assumed and only seldomly subjected to systematic empirical tests. This paper addresses this gap in research and ask: to what extent do consultations matter for levels of stakeholders’ support for policies formulated through stakeholder participation in policymaking? The speakers answer by building on theories of procedural fairness and elaborating an argument that recognises the importance of policymakers’ public cues sent during the post-decision stage about the fairness of the consultation process during the policy formulation stage, and how these shape stakeholders’ perceptions of procedural fairness. They argue that stakeholders are more likely to support policies for which policymakers can credibly signal that were formulated following an inclusive, transparent, and attentive to stakeholder demands consultation process. As well as testing the argument in the context of the EU bureaucratic policymaking based on a new dataset set containing information about 296 policy proposals formulated by the European Commission during the 2016-2021 period in relation to which more than 8,000 stakeholder expressed comments allowing us to estimate their level of policy support. The speakers find that policy proposals on which policymakers can signal an inclusive consultation process as indicated by the presence of open public consultations, generate significantly higher levels of stakeholder support. They do not find a systematic pattern of association between signalled levels of transparency around consultation activities and attention towards stakeholders’ inputs, and levels of stakeholder support. Instead, we find a strong pattern of association between stakeholder type and the policy area in which a policy proposal was initiated and observed levels of stakeholder support. In line with the latest experimental research on the link between procedural fairness and decision acceptance, the speakers observational study shows that procedural arrangements are less important for stakeholder support compared to considerations about outcome favourability (i.e., the extent to which stakeholders’ policy preferences are reflected in policy proposals). The findings have important implications for the research on participatory policymaking and that on bureaucratic reputation-building through stakeholder engagement. They highlight the challenges of reconciling input and output legitimacy in the EU bureaucratic policymaking, underscore the limits of using stakeholder involvement as a reputation building.