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Representing the Public? How Organisational Features Affect the Likelihood of Policy Congruence between Organised Interests and Citizen Preferences

Civil Society
Interest Groups
Public Policy
Representation
Quantitative
Domestic Politics
Lobbying
Public Opinion
Evelien Willems
Universiteit Antwerpen
Evelien Willems
Universiteit Antwerpen

Abstract

Organised interests may act as a transmission belt by maintaining stable ties with their constituency, as well as the government. Yet, not all interest organisations are equally suited to fulfil this intermediary function as they lack the needed organisational setup or resource structure to adequately aggregate and represent citizen preferences. Therefore, this paper analyses to what extent organisational features contribute to the likelihood that an interest organisations’ policy position is congruent with citizen preferences. First, we look at how internal democratic processes, membership involvement, and organizational professionalization make that policy positions are more or less in line with (a segment of) citizen preferences. Secondly, we look at the impact of resource dependencies on government funding and its possible de-politicizing effect on how interest organisations formulate their policy positons. We empirically scrutinize our expectations by combining three novel data sources. More specifically, (1) we rely on survey data from a representative sample of Belgian organised interests, (2) policy-specific expert interviews and media-data collected for a subset of these organised interests, and (3) public opinion data on citizen preferences with regard to these policy issues. Our findings will contribute to the research on democratic performance by illustrating the extent to which organisational features may foster or hamper the transmission of citizen preferences into the policy-making process.