Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Who Listens to the Grass Roots? A Field Experiment on Informational Lobbying in the UK

Liz Richardson (School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester) and Peter John (School of Public Policy, University College London) published in The British Journal of Politics & International Relations Volume 14 Issue 4 (November 2012)


Research on interest groups indicates that elected representatives respond positively to the informational content of a lobby campaign; but scholars also acknowledge that this claim is hard to evaluate because of the methodological challenges of establishing whether influence occurred or not.

To test for the impact of informational lobbying, we deploy an experimental design, recruiting citizen interest groups in eight local authority areas to campaign on a matter of importance to them. These groups sent either information-rich or information-poor lobbying letters to 248 randomly selected local councillors in their areas, and we monitored the responses.

Descriptive statistics and regressions with clustered standard errors show that the informational content of the letter does not make a difference to the response overall. But the information-rich treatment affected the quality of the response, encouraging councillors to pass on the letter to another expert or professional.

Our findings indicate that elected representatives in English local government use a cue from an informational lobby to defer to other professional elites rather than to engage with the lobbyist’s request. These findings have implications for the study of lobbying influence in other jurisdictions.

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