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Congruence Between Interest Groups’ Agendas and the Public’s Agendas in Four Countries

Amy McKay
University of Exeter
Joost Berkhout
University of Amsterdam
Patrick Bernhagen
Universität Stuttgart
Adam Chalmers
Kings College London
Beth Leech
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Amy McKay
University of Exeter

Abstract

Organized interest groups are often treated as conduits between public opinion and government policy making. Legislators, in particular, rely on the information lobby groups provide about what constituents prefer. In this paper we evaluate the degree to which interest groups’ agenda priorities are or are not congruent with the public’s preferences about what governments should focus on. As part of the Agendas and Interest Groups project, we have interviewed a stratified random sample of hundreds of lobby groups and randomly sampled 1000 individuals in each of four countries (United Kingdom, United States, Germany, and the Netherlands). Now we compare groups’ and the public’s ideal slate of issues to see just how ‘representative’ interest groups are of the public’s issue priorities. In this time of unexpected electoral outcomes, we find greater agreement than one might expect regarding which issue areas are most important. But as respondents’ issue priorities increase in specificity, the congruence between interest groups’ agendas and the public’s agenda rapidly diverges.