ECPR General Conference
University of Wrocław, Wrocław
4 - 7 September 2019

Interest Group and Lobbying Research in an Integrative Perspective: Building Bridges Across the Discipline

Civil Society
Interest Groups
Social Movements
Comparative Perspective
Section Number
Section Chair
Marcel Hanegraaff
University of Amsterdam
Section Co-Chair
Wiebke Marie Junk
University of Copenhagen

Over the past decades the European interest group field has grown from a small niche with only a few active scholars working on lobbying, to a vibrant community of over 150 scholars. Substantially the field has also evolved: In the early days scholars were mostly focussed on questions of collective action, whereas the interest group literature today contains the full range of interest group activities (mobilization, survival, and strategies) and its effects on the policy process and on political outcomes at national and transnational level. This has resulted in a broader range of theoretical perspectives, firmly rooted in empirical research, describing the role and impact of interest groups in political processes.

Based on this theoretically and empirically valuable work by interest group scholars, an important next step is to ask how lobbying research can increasingly speak to, and be integrated in, other fields in political science. This is important and valuable, because lobbying occurs at all levels of governance (national, international, subnational), and addresses various political institutions, the public and media debate, with potential effects on a diverse set of actors, their interactions and political outcomes. Therefore, it is the aim of this Section to focus on the embeddedness of interest group research in the larger discipline of political science and to flesh out its contributions and links to various subfields within

Over the past years many successful initiatives have already been taken to explore such connections. For instance, several authors have linked interest group studies to other fields, such as political economy (Dür and Bièvre 2007; Bernhagen and Mitchell 2009), responsiveness and public opinion (Flöthe and Rasmussen 2018; Giger and Klüver 2016; Rasmussen, Mäder, and Reher 2018), political parties (Wonka 2017; Otjes and Rasmussen 2017), organizational development (Halpin and Jordan 2009; Fraussen 2014), bureaucratic politics (Braun 2012), political communication (Binderkrantz 2012; De Bruycker and Beyers 2015; Junk and Rasmussen 2018), social movements (Berkhout & Hanegraaff 2017; Hanegraaff et al. 2016), political agenda setting (Baumgartner et al. 2009), questions of legitimacy and regulatory quality (Kohler-Koch 2010, Bunea 2017), and many more. This section provides the opportunity to consolidate and deepen these emerging research agendas and explore new bridges to other fields. More broadly, the section also welcomes reflections on broader themes and theories in political science and how the interest group field can contribute to these theories, such as European Integration, Euroscepticism, the rise of the far right, and the future of the European Union.

Papers will look at these proposed relationships from a theoretical, empirical and/or normative perspective. The section seeks to involve an international community of scholars that encompasses leading scholars and early career researchers, as well as researchers from different parts of Europe or other regions.

Proposed panels and confirmed panel chairs

1. Lobbying and Political Campaigning in the Media
Chair: Anne Binderkrantz, Aarhus University

Organized interests and other actors customarily seek to attract media attention to their work and causes. This panel takes stock of recent developments in the study of media strategies used by interest groups, advocates or political campaigns, and assesses their coverage in the media. It especially welcomes papers that move beyond the current literature for example by including a broader range of actors or tactics used, for instance by including new types of media or by adopting new methods to the study of organized interests in the media. The panel seeks to bring together interest group scholars and researchers in political communication.

2. Methodical Innovation in the Study of Interest Groups
Chair: Florian Weiler, University of Basel

Over the past decade many new methodological tools have become available to social scientists. This includes computer learning, complex statistical modelling, and other tools to help collect and process data more efficiently. The question is how these new tools are used in the interest group discipline. Can we learn from other sub-fields in the political science discipline? The panel welcomes papers using more advanced methods or critically discuss methodological issues.

3. Interest Groups and Public Opinion: Friends or foes?
Chair: Anne Rasmussen, University of Copenhagen

This panel brings together scholars working in the field of public opinion and interest groups. To what extent do interest groups represent the preferences of the general public? How does public opinion affect interest group behaviour and influence? And do interest groups play a role for policy responsiveness and agenda representation? This panel invites papers which aim to clarify the linkages between public opinion, interest groups and public policy. This could also include more substantive issues, such as the rise of populist sentiments, Euroscepticism, or questions about European integration.

4. Social Movements and Interest Groups
Chair: Mario Diani, University of Trento

Despite a shared interest in the politics of non-state actors, the study of interest groups and social movements are much divided. This panel seeks to build bridges between these bifurcated fields. What type of theoretical and methodological traditions do they share? What can we learn from each other? The panel welcomes contributions that set out to link insights from one field to another, as well as papers that have a mutual focus on social movements and interest groups. The general objective is to bring the two subfields closer together

5. Lobbying the Judiciary, Bureaucrats and Expert Communities
Chair: Daniel Naurin, University of Gothenburg

This panel addresses the nature and effects of the interactions between interest groups and the judiciary, as well as the bureaucracy (public officials, regulatory authorities) and experts, such as health specialists or researchers. An interesting question is, for instance, to what extent the judiciary and expert communities can be ‘lobbied’ in the same way we normally use the term, and what distinguishes these relationships from those with publicly elected representatives.

6. Interest Representation and Legitimacy in (Multi-Level) Governance
Chair: Martina Vukasovic, University of Bergen

The question of whether and to what extent interest groups contribute to legitimate governance is central to political science, as well as to political practice, for instance in EU policy making. This panel addresses these contributions from normative and/or empirical perspectives, for instance by assessing the capacity of interest groups to act as transmission belts for citizen and/or member preferences, or by addressing existing biases in interest mobilisation, access and influence at subnational, national or transnational level. The panel also welcomes papers that reflect on how lobbying research can speak to broader issues like Euroscepticism, European (Dis-)Integration or the rise of the far right.

7. Political Economy Perspectives on Lobbying
Chair: Andreas Dür, University of Salzburg

One of the most notable changes in the interest group landscape is the rise of firm lobbying. Over the past decades, firms have increased their individual lobby efforts to the extent that they are now the most frequent lobby groups in most political systems. This panel focusses on the origins and consequences of these developments. Why do firms bypass business associations? What are the effects for policymaking if firms increasingly lobby on their own behalf? Does the rise of firm lobbying feed populist rhetoric about the elitists’ nature of politics? The panel also welcomes comparative analysis where firms are compared to other interest groups in mobilization, their strategic activity, or influence.

8. Interest Groups, Political Parties and Legislatures
Chair: Patrick Statsch, University of Amsterdam

The link between political parties and interest groups is an evident one. The former need the input of interest groups, while the latter seek to influence the position of political parties. Still, both political actors are rarely studied together. This panel seeks to bring together scholars from both subfields. The panel welcomes papers that analyse the relation between parties and interest groups. For instance, (why) do few groups have privileged relations with one particular party? How do these two political organizations work together and establish relations in contemporary politics?

Berkhout, D. J., & Hanegraaff, M. C. (2017). Interest Groups and Social Movements. In P. van Praag (Ed.), Political Science and Changing politics (pp. 191-214). Amsterdam University Press.
Bernhagen, P., & Mitchell, N. J. (2009). The determinants of direct corporate lobbying in the European Union. European Union Politics, 10(2), 155-176.
Binderkrantz, A. S. (2012). Interest groups in the media: Bias and diversity over time. European Journal of Political Research, 51(1), 117-139.
Braun, C. (2012), The Captive or the Broker? Explaining Public Agency–Interest Group Interactions. Governance, 25: 291-314.
Bunea, A. (2017). Designing stakeholder consultations: Reinforcing or alleviating bias in the European Union system of governance?. European Journal of Political Research, 56(1), 46-69.
De Bruycker, I., & Beyers, J. (2015). Balanced or biased? Interest groups and legislative lobbying in the European news media. Political Communication, 32(3), 453-474.
Dür, A., & De Bièvre, D. (2007). Inclusion without influence? NGOs in European trade policy. Journal of Public Policy, 27(1), 79-101.
Flöthe, L., & Rasmussen, A. (2018). Public voices in the heavenly chorus? Group type bias and opinion representation. Journal of European Public Policy, 1–19.
Fraussen, B. (2014). The visible hand of the state: On the organizational development of interest groups. Public Administration, 92(2), 406-421.
Giger, N., & Klüver, H. (2016). Voting against your constituents? How lobbying affects representation. American Journal of Political Science, 60(1), 190-205.
Halpin, D., & Jordan, G. (2009). Interpreting environments: Interest group response to population ecology pressures. British Journal of Political Science, 39(2), 243-265.
Hanegraaff, M., Beyers, J. A., & De Bruycker, I. (2016). Balancing inside and outside lobbying: The political strategies of lobbyists at global diplomatic conferences. European Journal of Political Research, 55(3), 568-588.
Junk, W.M. and Rasmussen, A. (2018). ‘Framing by the Flock: Collective Issue Definition and Advocacy Success’, Open Access, Comparative Political Studies.
Kohler-Koch, B. (2010). Civil society and EU democracy: ‘astroturf’ representation? Journal of European Public Policy, 17(1), 100-116.
Otjes, S. and Rasmussen, A. (2017). ‘The Collaboration between interest groups and political parties in multi-party democracies: Party system dynamics and the effect of power and ideology’, Party Politics, 23(2), 96-109.
Rasmussen, A., Mäder, L. and Reher, S. (2018). ‘With a Little Help From The People? The Role of Public Opinion in Advocacy Success’, Comparative Political Studies, 51(2).
Wonka, A. (2017). German MPs and interest groups in EU multilevel policy-making: the politics of information exchange. West European Politics, 40(5), 1004-1024.

Chairs and bio's
Marcel Hanegraaff is an Assistant Professor in Political Science at the University of Amsterdam. His PhD thesis, defended in 2014 at the University of Antwerp, dealt with the development transnational interest group communities, as well as the strategic action by interest groups in the context of global governance. Since his PhD he focussed on the politics of interest representation in a transnational and EU context, as well as on the functioning of international organizations in the fields of climate change and global trade. Currently he is working on a four year project focussing on the agenda setting power of interest groups in the European Union.

Wiebke Junk is a Postdoc at the Department of Political Science at the University of Copenhagen (KU) and a member of the GovLis project (When Does Government Listen to the Public?) in cooperation with Leiden University. In 2018 she completed her PhD on interest group coalitions and their effects on lobbying success in five European countries. Previously, she studied at the University of Oxford, Freie University Berlin, Humboldt University and Science Po Paris. Her research has addressed national policies, transnational parliaments, the European Commission, European news media, and the interactions of a broad range of non-state actors in these contexts. Her research interests are therefore located at the intersection between Public Policy, Comparative Politics, EU Studies and International Relations.

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