Patrick Bernhagen
Lobbying and Political Influence in Britain: Evaluating a Signalling Model of Group-Government Interaction

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Mannheimer Zentrum für Europäische Sozialforschung: Arbeitspapiere; 141
ISSN: 1437-8574

Questions of the political influence of business and other organized interests are at the heart of democratic theory and political science. But while in recent years there have been noteworthy theoretical advances on special interest politics, our empirical understanding of the role of lobbying in the production of public policy is lagging behind. This paper provides an empirical test of a model predicting when lobbyists provide useful information to policymakers and when policymakers follow lobbyists’ advice. The predictions are assessed against data on the policy positions and lobbying activities of firms and other organized groups in the context of 35 policy proposals advanced by UK governments between 2001 and 2007. The results suggest that the behaviour of policymakers and lobbyists is driven mainly by the expected policy costs for policymakers. This provides lobbyists with strong incentives to either provide accurate advice to policymakers or abstain from costly lobbying. There is little support for the expectation that lobbyists can successfully persuade policymakers to take a course of action that is beneficial to the lobbyist at the expense of wider constituencies.