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Public Agents or Sneaky Villains? Interest Group Strategies vis-à-vis the Public and Policymakers

Civil Society
Comparative Politics
Democracy
Interest Groups
Lobbying
Public Opinion
Wiebke Marie Junk
University of Copenhagen
Wiebke Marie Junk
University of Copenhagen
Anne Rasmussen
University of Copenhagen

Abstract

Lobbying is commonly seen as a dodgy enterprise behind closed doors, whereas scholars and policymakers sometimes voice the hope that interest groups can act as a transmission belt between lawmakers and the public. To evaluate both of these views, we assess whether and when individual interest groups target their activities at including or excluding the public from policy discussions. We hypothesise that public-targeting or public-excluding strategies vary for different group types, with more member-dependent groups using more public-targeted strategies, as well as for different issues with varying levels of complexity, saliency and public support for policy change. 1410 lobbyists in five European countries were sampled in roughly equal shares based on outside and inside lobbying activities on 50 diverse policy issues and then surveyed on their pattern of lobbying strategies on the specific issue. For the 478 survey respondents we assess whether their lobbying activities were aimed only at policy makers, only at the public, or at both audiences. Arguably, groups with the latter strategy portfolio may be more likely to fulfil a role as transmission belts between constituencies and policy makers, so the findings are highly relevant for evaluating what roles interest groups play in European politics.