Friendly Lobbying under Time Pressure

The forthcoming article “Friendly Lobbying under Time Pressureby Emiel Awad and Clement Minaudier is summarized by the authors below.

Special interest groups routinely provide policy-relevant information to legislators in exchange for political influence. This information is typically commissioned from experts, think tanks, or consulting firms before its dissemination to legislators. Interest groups can be selective about two aspects of this information: how detailed the information should be and with which legislator they should share it. However, they also face some constraints: gathering more detailed information takes time while policymakers are under pressure from various stakeholders to act quickly. How does this time pressure affect lobbying strategies, political outcomes, and interest group influence? 

To answer these questions, we develop and analyze a series of game theoretic models. An interest group decides how much information to acquire and whether to disseminate it publicly or privately. If the group goes the private route, it can share the information with a carefully selected legislator. This legislator can then serve as an intermediary by recommending policies to other members of the legislature. The persuasiveness of an intermediary’s recommendation crucially depends on their ideological alignment with the legislative majority but also the precision of the information they received from the interest group in the first place. Our model generates three sets of results linking time pressure to the selection of intermediaries, the decision to lobby privately versus publicly, policy-making duration, and the quality of policies. 

First, when legislators face little time pressure, the interest group can privately target a legislator whose policy preferences are closely aligned with theirs. However, with more time pressure, the group must target a more moderate legislator, whose preferences are more aligned with the legislative majority, and may not even benefit from lobbying in private. It then goes either the public route or stays on the sideline and does not lobby.  

Second, time pressure can lengthen the policy-making process. Intuitively, legislators should make decisions more quickly when time pressure increases. Our results illustrate, however, that it may take longer for legislators to choose a policy when time pressure is higher. The reason is that lobbyists need to incentivize legislators to wait for the lobbyist’s information, which necessitates acquiring more information and prolongs the decision-making process. 

Third, more time pressure may be a good thing and improve the quality of policies, i.e., how similar they are to the policies legislators would have chosen without uncertainty. As time pressure forces lobbyists to share information with a more moderate intermediary, the intermediary’s recommendation becomes more closely aligned with the policy preferred by the majority. 

Finally, we discuss how time pressure can arise endogenously and how it can be measured empirically. The presence of competition and the legislature’s capacity to acquire information internally can both put lobbyists under pressure to provide information quickly and select a more moderate intermediary. Accounting for these sources of time pressure and for features that affect how long it takes to gather information, such as the technical complexity of a policy, are important when measuring the influence of lobbyists empirically. 

About the Authors: Emiel Awad is an Associate Research Scholar at Princeton University and Clement Minaudier is an Assistant Professor of Economics at City, University of London. Their research “Friendly Lobbying under Time Pressure” 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.

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