When Diversity Works: The Effects of Coalition Composition on the Success of Lobbying Coalitions

The forthcoming article “ When Diversity Works: The Effects of Coalition Composition on the Success of Lobbying Coalitions” (https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12437) by Wiebke Marie Junk is summarized by the author below.

AJPS Author Summary: When Diversity Works: The Effects of Coalition Composition on the Success of Lobbying Coalitions

Teaming up with unlike coalition partners in a lobbying campaign comes with collective action costs and reputational risks. At the same time, coalitions between ‘strange bedfellows’, such as business associations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), can signal to policymakers that different socio-economic interests have found consensus. So, such diverse coalitions might pay off despite their costs and, at the same time, play an important role in interest mediation in democratic politics. Both from a normative and practical perspective, it is therefore important to ask whether and when policymakers are actually responsive to diverse coalitions that signal a broad support base, instead of allowing policy capture by a single type of interest.

In this article, I speak to these questions by probing the conditions for the success of lobbying coalitions in attaining their policy preferences on a diverse set of 50 political issues in five European countries (Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom). I propose the theory that the appeal of a coalition to policymakers depends on the composition of the coalition, especially the societal and economic interests represented by it. In addition, I expect that the responsiveness by policymakers to coalition diversity, as well as contributions of coalition participants to the common effort, vary depending on the policy issue at stake. I argue that advocacy salience is a crucial conditioning factor in these regards: when an issue is salient in the lobbying community, policymakers will be more weary of political repercussions of policy outcomes that lack broad support. Furthermore, when outside pressures are high, because many advocates compete on an issue, there are higher incentives for members inside the diverse coalition to overcome cooperation problems and lobby together more efficiently.

The results based on analysing a set of 122 distinct coalitions in the five countries support these expectations: On salient issues, more diverse coalitions have significantly higher lobbying success than less diverse coalitions. On issues with low salience, however, coalition diversity is related negatively to lobbying success. These findings show that diversity in the types of interests united in a coalition for a common cause is no panacea, but that it is highly context dependent whether diverse coalitions attract higher costs or benefits compared to homogenous coalitions.

This pattern is highly consequential for understanding decisions in democratic politics, which might primarily be responsive to signals of diverse support when there are high levels of mobilization on an issue, but, perhaps worryingly, not on issues that attract less attention. By focus\sing on active lobbying coalitions on specific issues, the article addresses long-standing questions on the responsiveness of policymakers to different types of interests in a novel way. It is relevant for scholars of policy processes, interest representation and lobbying success, as well as the general public interested in the effect of lobbying on policymaking. Crucially, the findings provide evidence that policymakers reward diversity in mobilization, yet that differences between issues strongly affect the costs and benefits associated with uniting support from different types of societal groups.

About the Author: Wiebke Marie Junk is a Postdoc in the Department of Political Science at the University of Copenhagen. Her research ““ When Diversity Works: The Effects of Coalition Composition on the Success of Lobbying Coalitions” (https://doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12437) is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.

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The American Journal of Political Science (AJPS) is the flagship journal of the Midwest Political Science Association and is published by Wiley.