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Public Perceptions of Interest Groups: A Conjoint Analysis

Interest Groups
Experimental Design
Public Opinion
Survey Experiments
Camilo Cristancho
Sciences Po Paris
Laura Chaques Bonafont
Institut Barcelona d'Estudis Internacionals – IBEI
Camilo Cristancho
Sciences Po Paris

Abstract

In this paper we explain public perceptions towards interest groups using a conjoint experimental design. The goal is to explain to what extent citizen’s perceptions of interest groups vary depending on the type of interest groups—non-governmental organizations, business groups, professional and trade unions—, the practices they employ to get access to the decision-making process and the type of issues under discussion. Information about interest groups activities is scarce. In most countries there is no information about which interest groups have access to the policy-making process, and/or the consequences of lobbying activities. Yet, most citizens consider interest groups are an important source of political inequality and regulatory inefficiency with important differences across types of groups. We find evidence that citizen’s perceptions about interest groups vary depending on the type of organization –NGOs are rarely identified as an important source of expertise and technical knowledge about policy problems, while business groups are not identified as the key representatives of citizen’s preferences—, and the strategies interest groups perform to fulfill policy goals –individuals value transparent and formal practices as well as the expertise and influence of actors in different types of issues—. Normative and practical implications of public preferences and perceptions about interest groups are discussed considering the challenges and possibilities of lobbying regulation processes.