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1 Sweet-talk or policy concessions? What interest groups gain in consultations and why Paper prepared for the annual meeting of the Danish Political Science Association Vejle 25 th -26 th October 2012 (Not to be quoted) Anne Skorkjær Binderkrantz, Peter Munk Christiansen and Helene Helboe Pedersen Department of Political Science, Aarhus University

Sweet-talk or policy concessions? What interest groups gain in

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-What interest groups gain in consultations and why
Paper prepared for the annual meeting of the Danish Political Science Association
Vejle 25th -26th October 2012
(Not to be quoted)
Anne Skorkjær Binderkrantz, Peter Munk Christiansen and Helene Helboe Pedersen
Department of Political Science, Aarhus University
Governmental proposals are routinely sent out for consultation with interested parties.
Interest groups may make their voices heard and affect public policy. This paper
investigates factors affecting the success of groups in consultations. The analyses draw on a
dataset containing all consultations on Danish bills in the parliamentary year 2009/2010.
1,692 groups replied to 209 consultations carried out across the full set of policy areas.
Three sets of factors potentially affecting influence are tested: Group level variables turn out
to be important in predicting success over the full set of consultations, but less so in any
specific consultation. Variables related to the issues in question have a profound influence
on the likelihood of success. The same thing is true for variables related to the type of
mobilization of groups in the consultation. Groups who are generally positive towards the
proposed legislation are able to gain more accommodation compared to groups who
oppose a proposal.
In the preparation of policies, governments routinely consult with interested parties. Informal as
well as formal consultations serve to involve organized interests in policy making. Interest groups
value the opportunity to participate in consultations and the sheer amount of responses proves
that groups are willing to spend resources on their participation (Binderkrantz, 2005; Furlong &
Kerwin, 2004; Halpin & Binderkrantz, 2011). Consultations allows affected interests to be involved
in policy making and may therefore enhance the quality and legitimacy of policies. Involving
groups in preparation of political decisions may, however, also lead to unbalance in the influence
exercised as some interests may be more adept than others in utilizing this instrument.
Investigating the extent to which interest groups are successful in shaping policies through
consultation processes can therefore enhance our understanding of the functioning of democratic
Our present knowledge of the outcome of government consultations is limited. It may be that
major policy concessions are made in the consultation process, but it could also be that little
change happens after initial drafts of bills have been prepared. In this case, all interest groups earn
in consultations could be administrative “sweet-talk”. A few studies have demonstrated that
consultations do indeed lead to change. Using quantitative text analysis Klüver (2009;
forthcoming) has found EU policies to change in ways that may be linked to interest group
responses in consultations. US studies of administrative rule-making have shown that groups are
indeed able to gain policy concessions in the notice and comment period. Interest group comments
and suggestions have been directly linked to agency alterations of rules (S. W. Yackee, 2005: 3).
Agencies are found to alter rules in response to the most dominant side in consultations and more
often than not business groups come out as winners (McKay & Yackee, 2007; J. W. Yackee &
Yackee, 2006).
We set out to investigate the effects of interest group responses to consultations on bills before
these are introduced in the Danish parliament. In mapping influence we follow the methodology
used by Yackee et al. (2006), where group responses are linked to agency reactions. The setting of
the study is different, however, as our study focuses on a parliamentary democracy – Denmark –
and investigates consultations on bills rather than on administrative regulations. The analyses
draw on a dataset covering all bills introduced in the Danish parliament during the session
2009/10. Almost all bills (and all bills that are eventually passed) are introduced by the government
and draft bills are routinely sent out for consultation before being presented to parliament. We
have registered all interest group responses in these consultations and related these to ministerial
reactions. For this, we have been able to benefit from a practice of drawing up consultation reports
detailing responses to comments received in the consultation. These consultation-response data are
linked to survey data about group resources and other factors at the group level. We are therefore
able to investigate the effects of three sets of factors previously argued to affect influence: 1) group
characteristics such as group type and group resources, 2) characteristics of the policy issue in
question and 3) factors related to the mobilization of groups.
2. Shaping bills to be proposed to parliament
2.1 Government consultations as a group arena
Political influence is a fundamental raison-d-être of interest groups. Studying influence empirically
is, however, notoriously difficult and many scholars have shied away from the issue and devoted
their attention to more manageable questions (Dür, 2007). Recent scholarship has taken up the
challenge of studying group influence empirically. Two main approaches can be identified in this
literature. Some have focused on goal attainment by linking the policy positions of groups to
political outcomes (Baumgartner et al., 2009; Bernhagen, 2011; Klüver, 2009; Mahoney, 2007).
Others have centered on interest group influence in specific stages of the policy process (for a
review see: Leech, 2010). This latter approach has the advantage of reducing the distance between
the actions carried out by groups and their measured effect in terms of political influence. This
comes at the cost of capturing only a part of the policy process in a given study, but the hope is
that scholars can thereby collectively examine “the development of policies from cradle to grave”
(Furlong, 1997: 341).
The present study focuses on group influence in consultations on bills before they are introduced
to parliament. A central concern for interest groups is affecting legislation of relevance for their
members or cause. Much scholarly attention has been devoted to group attempts to affect the fate
of legislation once it has reached parliament. In many countries, this latter stage of the decision
making process is, however, only one of the stages where influence may be sought. Groups target
different venues and use a variety of tools in their attempts to affect politics (Baumgartner &
Leech, 1998; Beyers, 2004; A. Binderkrantz, 2005). A particularly crucial venue is the bureaucratic
agency or department responsible for drafting legislation. A frequent venue is for groups to be
involved in informal or formal consultations with bureaucracy. Responding to consultations is
only one among many venues, but surveys indicate that groups regard this instrument as
important (A. Binderkrantz, 2005; Furlong & Kerwin, 2004: 366). Our focus here is influence
exercised through formal consultations. Our method enables a systematic comparison of interest
group consultation responses and their effects across a large number of groups and issues. In
mapping the effects of group responses we follow the approach used first by Golden (1988) in
selected rules and later by Yackee et al. (2006) in a broader study of US administrative rule-
making. . In contrast to asking groups about their effectiveness in for example a survey, we do not
need to deal with problems of under or over reported influence (Golden, 1998: 248). In contrast to
studies linking group positions to policy outcomes (Klüver, 2009) we restrict the analysis to
instances where the documentary material clearly documents a relation between a group response
and an agency reaction. A key limitation is that we focus on only a narrow part of the policy
process. Much may have happened before the consultation, much may happen later. Nevertheless,
this study can provide part of the picture in understanding group influence.
In this setting, influence is defined as the ability to change the proposed bill. In their responses to
consultations, groups typically provide ministries with suggestions for improvement (or they
simply advice the ministry to drop the bill). These suggestions may be neglected, they may be
partly accommodated, or the group may get all that it wants. The standard of evaluation is thus
the group’s own consultation response. Based on this, influence is analyzed in each specific
consultation and also aggregated over the full set of consultations in order to see whether some
groups are successful across a wide range of bills.
2.2 What factors shape group influence?
Generally, we expect ministries to be attentive to group comments. A group response to a
government consultation can be seen as the transmission of information. Groups may signal
potential problems or inform the administration about possible unintended consequences of the
bill. They may also send signals of a more political character indicating that negligence of the
group’s point of view may lead to public criticism and negative attention (S. W. Yackee, 2006: 728).
To the extent that such signals are deemed relevant ministries may consider adjustments, although
with two limitations: one is that different groups’ comments may be conflicting another that
groups’ comments may contradict the ministry’s policy. Ministries’ considerations may be affected
by three sets of factors. First, influence may be related to group level variables such as group type,
group resources and group portfolio. Second, policy characteristics may affect the patterns of
influence and third, the mobilization of groups may matter for the likelihood of success. This
section discusses these three sets of factors.
Different groups, different rates of success?
A dominant perspective in the literature argues that some groups are more likely to be politically
successful than others. Business interests have repeatedly been singled out as being well-
represented in the political system and better equipped to affect policy making than other types of
groups (Lindblom, 1977; Lowery et al., 2005; Schattschneider, 1975 [1969]; Schlozman et al. 2012).
Theories of agency capture emphasize how business interests may assume a very dominant role
vis-à-vis regulatory agencies (Furlong, 1997: 328; Stigler, 1971). Participation in administrative
consultations has indeed been found to be highly skewed with business interests being more active
than other types of interests (Furlong & Kerwin, 2004: 361; Golden, 1998: 255; J. W. Yackee &
Yackee, 2006: 129).
Mixed results are present in regard to whether business interests are also more successful. Yackee
and Yackee (2006: 135) conclude that: “Agencies appear to alter final rules to suit the expressed
desires of business commenters, but do not appear to alter rules to match the expressed
preferences of other kinds of interests”. In contrast, earlier US studies found no strong support to
traditional theories of capture although trade associations seemed to have some advantage
(Furlong, 1997: 340; Golden, 1998). Klüver (forthcoming) concludes in her study of EU policy
makingthat lobbying success does not vary systematically across group type. Conclusions about
the role of business thus seem to vary with the political system, the institutional setup and the
research design used.
High mobilization by business interests may be related to the saliency of policies for different
types of groups. Business participate in more rule making than other groups because they are
affected directly by more rules than other groups (Furlong & Kerwin, 2004: 361). High levels of
participation may in themselves lead to more influence as agencies take stock of the interest
advocated in consultations and adapt policies accordingly (J. W. Yackee & Yackee, 2006: 136). Also,
business groups are in many instances able to supply bureaucrats with relevant technical
information about proposed regulation and in return gain political influence (A. S. Binderkrantz,
Pedersen, & Christiansen, 2012; Bouwen, 2004). In the corporatist literature, the ability to affect
societal production has further been singled out as a crucial resource possessed by both business
groups and trade unions (Rokkan, 1966). In contrast to US studies, in this literature the main
emphasis is on the role played by major trade associations rather than individual businesses. In
countries – like Denmark – with a corporatist heritage the objects of interests is therefore the large
organized groups of businesses and their level of representation and success.
An issue that has also attracted considerable attention is the role of money and other resources in
lobbying success. Even though recent research has shown that financial resources may be of lesser
relevance than usually assumed (Baumgartner et al., 2009), the issue is hardly settled. Rather than
finances as such what may be important is how groups utilize their resources. Based on reanalysis
of the data originally compiled by Heinz and associates McKay (2011: 13) concludes that: “While
the general picture shows little measurable effect of organizational wealth on group’s policy
success, the data suggest that how that money is spent can affect groups’ ability to get what they
want”. Notably, some groups dedicate resources to build up large secretariats capable of
interacting professionally with decision makers. This indicates emphasis on achieving political
influence as well as possession of resources to interact professionally with decision makers – for
example by supplying high quality comments in consultations (Furlong, 1997: 327; S. W. Yackee,
2005: 3).
A third factor that distinguishes groups is the nature of their policy portfolio. Some groups are
active only within a small issue-niche, whereas others are engaged in a much broader set of policy
areas (Baumgartner & Leech, 2001; Halpin & Binderkrantz, 2011). Groups with a broad policy
portfolio are more likely to be active across a large set of consultations than other groups. A
broadly based strategy in itself increases their options for achieving their goals in regard to at least
some consultations. On the other hand, spreading the resources thinly over many different issues
may decrease the chance that a group is heard in any specific situation. In effect we propose the
following three hypotheses about the effect of group-level variables:
H1: Business groups are more influential than other groups
H2: Groups with high levels of professional resources are more influential than other groups
H3: Groups with a broad policy portfolio are more influential across all cases but less influential in any
specific case than other groups
Different policy characteristics, different chances of influence?
Lowi (1964: 688-89) famously argued that political relationships are determined by the type of
policy at stake. Policies must be defined in terms of their impact or expected impact on society and
different policies lead to different patterns of policy making. Depending on the nature of the
policies different interests can be expected to mobilize. The most elitist patterns of policy making
were to be found in regard to distributional policies, while regulatory and redistributive policies
were expected to be characterized by respectively pluralist and conflictual patterns of interest
mobilization (Lowi, 1964: 713). In theories of agency capture, agencies concerned with regulation
of specific branches have been seen as particularly prone to capture (Golden, 1998; Stigler, 1971).
Wilson (1980) points to the distribution of policies’ costs and benefits as a central policy variable.
Groups are particularly inclined to react on policies with concentrated benefits or costs. The
alleged high levels of influence of business groups may therefore – at least to some extent – be
caused by underlying characteristics of policies.
In Golden’s (1998) study of eleven rules, variation across policy areas was found with extremely
skewed participation in regard to rules issued by agencies concerned with regulation. Here,
business interests dominated and only few public interest or citizen advocacy groups were found.
Furlong (1997: 337-338) also include variables capturing policy types in his study of group
influence on rule-making, but these turn out not to affect the perceived effectiveness of groups.
Regulatory policies satisfy – at least theoretically – some features that may attract the attention of
business groups: they are often related to the business sector and they most often have
concentrated costs or benefits. Bills vary in their distribution of costs and benefits. Lowi’s (1964)
distributional policies were thus home for client groups who could happily interact with agencies,
while less amiable relationships existed in areas where specific groups were harmed by proposed
regulation. Wilson (1980) hypothesize that only groups favored by policies with concentrated
benefits or fighting policies with concentrated costs will mobilize in favor of or against policies.
Policies with dispersed benefits and costs are not the basis of mobilization. McDermott (2004)
points to the particular processes related to losses. Due to the ‘negativity bias’ groups facing losses
are particularly prone to mobilize. Consequently interests groups are expected to mobilize in
situations where government proposals impose increased costs or reduced benefits on societal
interests (Christiansen & Nørgaard, 2003: 169). Since civil servants and ministers are familiar with
and relatively resistant towards such protests, we expect them not to be very successful. In
conclusion, we test a hypothesis related to the policy area as such and one concerning the
characteristics of the specific proposal:
H4: Influence is more likely in regard to specific regulation than other policy areas
H5: Influence is less likely in regard to bills involving increased state revenue or reduced expenses
Different patterns of mobilization, different patterns of influence?
A final set of factors potentially affecting group influence relate to the pattern of mobilization in
the consultation process. Several authors have argued that characteristics of the issue context may
be as important as or even more important than group level characteristics (Klüver, 2011;
Mahoney, 2007). One such factor relates to the salience of a proposal in general or in regard to the
number of groups mobilized (Nixon et al. 2002: 68). S. W. Yackee (2006) has found congressional
attention to constrain group influence, while Klüver (2011: 497) focused on the interests mobilized
and found the number of submissions received in consultations to positively affect the likelihood
of influence.
Interest groups may have very different overall opinions about proposed legislation. Some groups
are largely in favor of the bill, while others are fierce opponents. Golden (1998: 61-2) argues that
agencies tend to favor supporters of its rules over critics. Thus, it is not very likely for a group who
strongly opposes the bill to have its – supposedly major – suggestions for revisions accepted. On
the other hand, a group who is generally in favor of the bill may be more effective in getting its
suggestions accommodated. The aggregate stance of participating groups in regard to proposals
may also matter. Consensus among commenters and repetition of a comment might increase
agency’s probability of agreement (Nixon et al., 2002: 63). Mckay and Yackee (2007: 337) also find
that the balance of opinion matter as agencies are less likely to alter rules when lobbying is
competitive and more likely when one side of a policy issue dominates the lobbying effort.
However, their study does not take into account the general stance of groups towards the
proposed legislation, but rather examines in which direction proposals are changed. We combine
the insight about the balance of opinion with the argument that agencies are most likely to favor
supporters and less likely to accommodate groups the more critical they are. When bills are not
contested agencies are more prone to accommodate comments because less is at stake. We propose
three hypotheses about the effects of group mobilization:
H6: Influence is more likely when many groups respond to the consultation.
H7: Influence is more likely for groups who generally support the bill.
H8: Influence is more likely when opposition to the bill is low.
3. Research design
In this paper we focus on consultations about bills carried out by Danish ministries. In Denmark,
legislation is almost always prepared by the administration. Before a bill is presented to parliament
a consultation is routinely carried out with a few exceptions.1 Consultations are sent to a set of
groups – mainly interest groups and public authorities – chosen by the ministry in charge of the
consultation and published online. Anyone can reply to the consultation. After the response date
has passed the ministry decides to what extent the proposed legislation will be changed. Also, a
consultation report containing all responses as well as the ministerial reaction to responses is
prepared and forwarded to the relevant parliamentary committee. It is publicly available at
parliament’s homepage.
3.1 Establishing a measure of group success
With the purpose to study interest group influence related to the consultation process all bills
introduced to parliament in its 2009-10 section have been registered. 223 bills were introduced in
parliament in this section. One consultations had been carried out in regard to 204 of these and two
rounds for six bills. For one consultation it was not possible to find the relevant material and the
remaining 209 consultations therefore form the basis of the analysis. Almost all of these bills were
eventually passed by parliament with only two being postponed to later sessions.
Our strategy of case selection has the advantage of encompassing all bills thus allowing us to
include a wide range of policy areas as well as both high-salience and low-salience issues in the
analysis (S. W. Yackee, 2005: 8). One caveat is that some bills sent out for consultation may never
make it to parliament. After all, an often acknowledged effect of influence group activity is to
hinder political proposals in being put into effect (Baumgartner et al., 2009). While this may
happen regularly in some political systems, in Denmark it is very rare for bills to be withdrawn
once it has reached the consultation stage. In order to check for the occurrence of this, we have
1. Main exceptions are financial bills, bills on tax agreements between Denmark and other countries, and bills
on naturalization.
( which registers all bills
sent for consultation in 2009-10 and established whether these were eventually proposed in
parliament. This was the case for XX out of XX bills.
In studying influence exercised in consultations, we adopt a methodology similar to that used in
studies of US administrative rule making (Golden, 1998; Nixon et al., 2002: 65; S. W. Yackee,
2005)(). The unit of analysis is response by an interest group to a government consultation. For the
209 consultations we have coded all consultation responses from interest groups. Letters without
any substantial content (for example just acknowledging the receipt of the proposed bill) were not
registered. In response to the consultations we found 1,691 responses sent by 415 different groups.
Establishing whether letters have led to changes in proposed bills is a time consuming process
(Furlong & Kerwin, 2004: 364). In establishing a measure on whether a group got what it wanted,
we have been helped by a ministerial practice of drawing up a ‘hearings-report’ detailing the
responses of the ministry to the consultation. For each letter, we have therefore checked this report
to establish whether the group’s demands were met.
In establishing the dependent variable – groups’ success – we registered whether: 1) the group’s
proposed changes were fully or almost fully followed by the ministry, 2) the group’s proposed
changes were partially followed by the ministry or 3) the groups’ proposed changes were rejected.
In the multivariate analyses we construct a dichotomous measure, where groups are assigned ‘1’ if
their proposals were partly or fully accommodated and ‘0’ if a group’s proposal was rejected or if
it was in opposition to the bill, but did not suggest any specific amendments. . In many cases the
evaluation of success was not straightforward as ministries sometimes strive to seem
accommodating while keeping the bill substantially unchanged. Therefore the coding process was
difficult and the instruction of the coders very detailed. In order to obtain reliable results we
instructed the coders to consult with the coding responsible in any cases of doubt. We obtained
intercoder-reliability (Cohen’s Kappa) of .721 in a final sample of 66 cases.
3.2 Measures of independent variables
Group level variables
All interest groups responding to at least one consultation have been given a unique ID number
allowing us to trace their pattern of activity across all consultations. Groups have been coded into
types of groups including: 1) business groups, 2) trade unions, 3) professional groups (such as
groups of teachers, doctors or technicians), 4) associations of authorities and institutions, 5)
identity groups (such as patients, students or elderlies), 6) hobby groups2, and 7) public interest
groups. This coding was based on group names and descriptions of groups found on their
websites. The coding was done by the authors with a reliability test of 100 groups resulting in a
Cohen’s Kappa of 0.906.
To obtain data on group resources, a survey has been administered to all groups identified. Out of
415 groups active in consultations, 303 – corresponding to 73 percent – responded to the survey.
This was part of a larger survey among Danish interest groups and the 1,109 groups who
responded to the survey are used as a standard of comparison when analyzing the types of groups
appearing in the consultation data. The full questionnaire as well as the frequency distributions of
group answers may be found at: The questionnaire included questions about
group resources including annual group income and number of employees working with politics
broadly (contacts to bureaucrats, politicians or reporters as well as conducting analyses and
monitoring the political process). These different measures exhibit a high level of multicollinearity
(the tolerance level for political employees is 0.225 when group income is included alongside the
other variables in the multivariate analysis of influence). Only the measure of employees working
with politics is therefore included in the analyses because personnel resources are supposed to
represent a more specific resource in relation to consultations compared to monetary resources. To
obtain better linearity the measure was logarithmically transformed and then recoded to range
from 0 to 1.
Survey data were also used to establish a measure of how broadly groups are engaged in politics.
Groups were presented with a list of 21 policy areas and asked about their level of activity in
regard to each area. For each area groups were given three points if they reported to be ‘very’
2. Because only two religious groups appeared in the material these have been grouped with hobby groups.
active, two points if ‘somewhat’ active and 1 point if ‘a little’ active. Points were then summed
across all areas and the measure recoded to range from 0 to 1.
Issue level variables
The policy area of all consultations was registered and these areas were recoded depending on
whether the area could best be classified as: 1) public production (health, education, culture,
defense etc.), 2) specific regulation (agriculture, labor market, housing etc.) or 3) general regulation
(macroeconomics, environment, foreign affairs etc.).
For each bill we also registered its public expenditure consequences. Ministries routinely report a
bill’s consequences for public finances. This information is rigorously checked by the Ministry of
Finance and may be seen as a rather reliable measure. Based on this we established a dichotomous
variable registering whether the bill included increased revenue or reduced expenses for the state
(including also bills with both increased revenues and costs).
Mobilization variables
Two variables were established based on the full set of responses to consultations. The first simply
registers the number of groups replying to the consultation. This aims to operationalize the
salience of the bill to the interest group community. The second measure registers the share of
groups who were generally against the bill.
The last variable combines the group and issue level in registering the group’s general stance
towards the bill. This was coded based on group consultation responses. Responses were coded in
the following three categories: 1) The group overwhelmingly supports the bill (objections are
negligible), 2) The group supports the bill, but also has significant objections and 3) The group is
overwhelmingly against the bill. Since this coding is open for judgment the coders were instructed
carefully and told to contact the coding responsible in any cases of doubt. In a final sample of 66
we obtained a Cohen’s Kappa of .65.
3.3 Methods
Two types of multivariate analyses are conducted in order to shed light on the factors affecting
group influence. First, we have summed the number of cases where each group was successful.
The result is a count variable where the variation is higher than the mean. The analysis is therefore
performed as a negative binomial regression (Long & Freese 2006: 372)). Second, we analyze
group-issue dyads to investigate the factors affecting whether a group is successful in a specific
instance. Here, a logistic regression is performed. Because each group may appear several times in
this dataset robust clustered standard errors in regard to unique groups are used. The analyses
have been repeated with similar results clustering the standard errors in regard to the bill in
4.1 The mobilization of groups in consultations
How many groups and other actors respond when bills are sent for consultation? Are groups
typically engaged in only one or a few consultations or do they spread their attention more
widely? And which patterns of group mobilization can be found in different policy areas? These
questions can be addressed by descriptive analysis of the consultation data. Figure 1 gives an
overview of the extent of participation in consultations from national interest groups and from
other external actors.
Across the 209 consultations included in the study 2,169 replies were received with 1,692 –
corresponding to 78 percent – coming from national interest groups. On average 10 actors replied
to each consultation and 8 of these were interest groups. If measured by the number of responses
the most salient issue was the proposed establishment of a new Center for Energy Savings. This
consultation attracted replies from 54 different actors of whom 32 were interest groups. On the
other end of the spectrum we find three consultations that did not attract a single reply.
Figure 1: The Distribution of consultation responses from interest groups and other actors
Compared to other studies, the level of activity found appears to be low. In her study of 40
consultations held by US agencies, Yackee (2005: 8) found an average of 36 organized interest
participating although her definition of organized interests is broader than ours (S. W. Yackee,
2005: 8, 10). Klüver (forthcoming: 11) studied replies to 56 EU consultations and found almost 50
replies from associations per consultations. Lundbergs (2012: 11) study of 33 consultations found
30 replies from voluntary organizations per consultation. The lower activity level in our study
may indicate that our consultations represent an ‘insider’s game’, where a limited number of
groups seek to affect bills put forward to parliament. The relatively low activity level may alsom
be explained by the fact thatthe time frame for replying to consultations is often very short and
that the practice of holding consultations for almost all bills means that even bills of little
substantial interest to external actors are sent for consultation.
Interestingly, the dominance of interest groups in the Danish consultations contrasts findings from
a longitudinal study of Swedish government consultations, where voluntary organizations
accounted for only 25.5 of replies to consultations held between 2000 and 2009 (Lundberg, 2012:
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26 28 31 35 39 51 54
All actors Interest groups
11). This demonstrates that even in countries with relatively similar overall institutional
arrangements for incorporating groups in decision making (Christiansen et al., 2009), variation
may be found depending on the specific setup of consultations. The Swedish consultations studied
by Lundberg were held on – often major – policy issues with a report prepared by a committee
being sent out for consultation (Lundberg, 2012). This seems to attract responses from a wider
circle of actors than the Danish consultations held in the last phase of administrative bill
preparation and on almost all bills.
Among those who do respond, activity is rather unequally distributed. Across all consultations we
identified 415 unique groups and table 1 shows the number of consultations these groups
participated in. It is most common to reply to just one consultation which 43.4 percent of groups
did. About 20 percent participated in two consultations and a little less than 10 percent in three
consultations. Thus, more than 70 percent of all groups are active from one to three times. On the
other hand, we also find some rather active groups with about 8 percent being active in more than
ten consultations and almost three percent participating in more than 20 consultations.
Table 1: Number of consultations participated in, percentages
Number of consultations Number of groups Percentage
1 180 43.4
2 82 19.8
3 40 9.6
4 30 7.2
5 18 4.3
6-10 30 7.2
11-15 18 4.3
16-20 5 1.2
21-75 12 2.8
All groups 415 100
The most active group is the association of local communities ‘Local Government Denmark’ who
participated in no less than 75 consultations. Thereafter we find the ‘Confederation of Danish
Industry’ with participation in 63 consultations followed by three other major trade associations.
Among the most active groups we also find ‘The Danish Confederation of Trade Unions’, ‘Danish
Regions’ and ‘Disabled Peoples Organisations Denmark’. These groups are all well-known
political players and have a significant presence in other political arenas (A. S. Binderkrantz et al.,
The more than 200 consultations span a wide variety of policy areas. Previous research has found
different patterns of group participation depending on the nature of the issue (Golden, 1998). Table
2 shows the pattern of group mobilization overall and in respect to policies related to public
production, specific regulation and general regulation. For each type of policies, groups are
distributed according to their type. As a standard of comparison, the table also shows the
distribution of groups in the survey of all national interest groups which may be seen as a proxy to
the interest group ‘population’.
Trade unions 25.5 18.8 16.3 20.3 14.2
Business groups 22.1 56.7 46.1 41.0 25.3
Associations of authorities and institutions
26.3 6.8 9.6 14.9 6.3
Professional groups 1.8 1.2 3.9 2.4 11.5
Identity groups 15.9 4.6 7.6 9.8 14.4
Hobby groups 4.4 0.9 5.0 3.7 12.7
Public interest groups 4.1 7.9 11.5 7.8 15.6
Total 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
All groups 616 457 618 1,691 1,109
Note: Chi-square = 279.3, significant at the 0.001 level. Cramér's V = 0.2874
Overall, the data supports the pattern from US studies (J. W. Yackee & Yackee, 2006) that business
interests are very active participants. Across all consultations they account for 41 per cent of
replies. Trade unions and associations of authorities and institutions are also rather active.
Together, these three types of labor market related groups account for more than 75 percent of all
consultation replies compared to 45 per cent of the group ‘population. . All other group types carry
less weight in the consultations than in the group ‘population’ as measured in the survey.
Professional groups and hobby groups are almost absent in consultations even though they each
represent about 12 per cent of all groups. Identity groups and public interest groups fare
somewhat better with ten percent and 8 percent of the replies respectively, even if this is less than
their share in the group population. Other studies have found even lower levels of participation by
public interest groups (Lundberg, 2012: 12; J. W. Yackee & Yackee, 2006: 133), although Klüver
(forthcoming: 25) reports 20 per cent of the groups participating in EU consultations to be cause
The attention from different group types is hardly evenly distributed. While business groups are
most dominant in regard to specific as well as general regulation, institutional groups are most
active in bills concerning public production. These replies come mainly from two groups – Local
Government Denmark and Danish Regions – who organize the local and regional authorities
providing two thirds of public consumption. We also find identity groups – typically representing
the users of public service – to be rather active in regard to public production. Public interest
groups are, on the other hand, most often found to respond to hearings regarding general
regulation such as environmental issues. The patterns of activity are systematically different
depending on the policy issue in question; also illustrated by the significant chi-square test.
4.2 How groups evaluate bills – and what they get
Groups may have very different overall opinions about proposed legislation. Some see bills as
largely positive even though they may have specific reservations; others are fierce opponents.
Table 3 illustrates how this plays out across different types of groups as all replies have been coded
as either ‘supportive’, ‘somewhat supportive’ or ‘opposing’.
Table 3: Group type and evaluation of bill, row percentages
Supportive Somewhat supportive Opposing N
Trade unions 30.0 51.3 18.7 343
Business groups 32.9 57.3 9.8 693
Associations of authorities and institutions
30.3 57.4 12.4
Public interest groups
15.9 59.1 25.0
All groups 27.8 57.3 14.9 1,685
Note: Chi-square = 71.7, significant at the 0.001 level. Cramér's V = 0.1459
Different group types generally have different opinions about the set of bills sent for consultation.
The chi-square test shows that the two variables are associated. Business groups stand out as the
most positive. In less than ten percent of the cases, replies from business groups were in opposition
to the bill proposed. This may reflect that the government at the time of data collection was
Liberal-Conservative and thus traditionally pro-business. Another reason may be, that some of the
positive groups have been included in the policy preparation at an earlier stage of the policy
process and thus been given early policy concessions. Associations of authorities and institutions
are also rather positively inclined. The fiercest opponents of government bills are found among
public interest groups with 25 per cent against and only 16 percent supportive of proposed bills.
Professional associations and identity groups are also among the groups who are least positive
towards proposed legislation.
Some groups simply state their general view of the legislation and advices the government to
either promote or drop the proposed bill. Others provide more specific suggestions for change.
Table 4 shows the distribution of all consultation replies according to whether they contained
specific suggestions and if so whether the suggestion was fully met, partially met or neglected.
No suggestions
Full accommodati
Associations of authorities and institutions
31.0 7.5 24.2 37.3 252
Professional groups
Identity groups 18.8 4.9 28.5 47.9 165
Hobby groups 21.0 12.9 35.5 30.7 62
Public interest groups
All groups 25.1 7.8 28.6 38.5 1,687
Note: Chi-square = 31.3, significant at the 0.05 level. Cramér's V = 0.0786
First, we may notice that about 25 per cent of groups do not have any specific suggestions. For
those who were in opposition to the bill this means that their only suggestion was simply to drop
the bill and we can conclude that they were unsuccessful since all of the analyzed bills were
eventually put forward to the legislature. In contrast we cannot make any conclusions regarding
the success of groups that made no suggestions but were positively inclined towards the bill, since
there is no way for us to link the support of a specific group to the advancement of the bill.
Second, it is interesting to note that change does happen. In about 8 percent of the cases a group
makes a suggestion that is fully accommodated and in another almost 30 percent group
suggestions are partly accommodated. US studies report ample evidence of change taking place
with Yackee (2005: 3) concluding that: “the notice and comment period is an important political
arena where the bureaucracy frequently alters and adapts public polices to better match the
preferences of interest group commenters”. The present study indicates that bills are indeed also
altered in the Danish consultation process, although the magnitude of changes may not always be
Third, there is variation across different types of groups (although the magnitude is not impressing
as indicated by the statistical tests). Business groups and hobby groups have the highest success
rate when it comes to suggestions not being neglected. Identity groups and public interest groups
are, on the other hand, less likely to have their wishes accomodated. The types of groups that are
generally most positive towards proposed bills are thus also the most influential.
4.3 Explaining influence: Who’s most succesfull and what explains influence in specific cases?
The issue of influence may be analyzed in different ways. One relevant strategy is to ask which
groups are the most successful in terms of affecting a large number of bills and how this success
may be explained. Another strategy is to see each consultation reply as an attempt to affect a bill
and seek to explain whether such an attempt succeeds. In the first instance, the interest group and
its level of success across consultations is in focus, while the individual consultation replies are the
unit of analysis in the latter. Both of these approaches will be followed here. In both analyses we
define success as having a proposal fully or partly accomodated. Lack of success is defined as
having a proposal neglected or being in opposition to a bill that is eventually put forward to
When it comes to being succesful across a large number of consultations, the most active
participants are – not surprisingly – also the most succesful. For example, in 35 instances the
suggestions of Local Government Denmark were accomodated fully or partly. Other groups have
higher rates of success but based on less activity. Quite a few groups have a success rate of 100
percent but most of these participated only once. Here, two groups representing major economic
interests – The Danish Shipowners Association and the Danish Mortgage Banks' Federation –
stand out with each six times of participating and at least partly accommodation in all instances.
Table 5 shows the result of a multivariate analysis with unique groups as the unit of analysis and
number of bills influenced as the dependent variable. Because this is a count variable and the
variance is greater than the mean, a negative binomial regression is conducted. Since the
dependent variable is aggregated across all consultations it is not possible to control for variables
related to the policy area or consultation in question.
Table 5: Multivariate analysis of number of successes (negative binomial regression)
Coefficient Standard error
Business groups Ref.
Political employees 2.942*** 0.354
Broad engagement 1.526*** 0.370
Note: Levels of significance: *=0.1, **=0.01, ***=0.001.
Two factors stand out as particularly important for being effective in a large number of cases. First,
groups with many employees working with politics are more influential than other groups.
Second, groups active within a wide range of policy areas are also more successful. These findings
point to the existence of an elite of groups with broad interests and participation in a large number
of consultations and with success. . In terms of group types, most groups are less influential than
business groups (used as reference category) but only trade unions significantly less so.
In the following group-bill dyads are the unit of analysis. This allows us to include issue and
consultation related variables alongside group level variables in the analysis. Also, the analytical
focus shifts from the number of times individual groups have affected bills to the factors affecting
influence in each specific situation. The dependent variable is dichotomous with ‘1’ representing at
least partial accommodation and ‘0’ representing neglection. Results are shown in table 6, which
reports coefficients and robust standard errors clustered on unique groups. The analysis is
conducted in two steps with the first including only group level variables.
Model 1 Model 2
Associations of authorities
Public interest groups -0.598* 0.240 -0.337 0.267
Political employees 0.809* 0.369 0.779 0.388*
Broad engagement -0.604* 0.339 -0.544 0.349
Share of opposing groups -2.821*** 0.482
Group positive Ref.
Group opposing -0.975*** 0.289
Pseudo R2/N 0.0110 1,106 0.107 1,105
Note: Levels of significance: *=0.1, **=0.01, ***=0.001. Standard errors are clustered with respect to individual
The analyses confirm some of the above results. Group resources are important for success, but
less important than in the analyses of influence over the full spectrum of consultations. In
accordance with expectations, the variable measuring the number of policy areas groups are active
in has a negative effect on influence in model 1, but is not significant in model 2. This variable is
thus mainly important when measuring influence across a large number of cases. In the first step
most types of groups come out as less influential (although not all significantly so) than business
groups, but when policy related variables are controlled for the only significant effect is that hobby
groups are more successful than business groups.
The most important variables all relate to the characteristics of and the mobilization of groups in
the specific consultation. First, more influence is attained in policy areas related to specific
regulation. Second, influence is more common when bills are not aimed to increase public revenue
or cut public expenditures. Third, a high number of responses to a consultation make influence
more likely. Fourth, if a large share of groups is in opposition to the bill influence is less likely.
Fifth and finally, groups who are themselves negatively inclined towards the bill are less likely to
affect its content. All hypotheses related to the effects of factors related to the issue in question or
the mobilization of groups are thus supported by the analyses.
Figure 2: Predicted probabilities of success (all other variables kept at mean)
In terms of the magnitude of effects, the predicted probabilities of success for the categorical
variables are illustrated by figure 2, while figure 3 illustrates the effect of number of groups
responding to the consultation (with all other variables kept at their mean). The difference between
being active towards public production and specific regulation amounts to moving from a
predicted rate of success of 0.39 to one of 0.52. If groups lobby in instances where cuts are being
made (or revenues for the state raised) their chance of success is predicted to be 0.34, while the
chance in other situation is 0.47. The largest difference is found in regard to general stance towards
the bill, where supportive groups have a predicted rate of success at 0.55, while opponents are
only successful in 0.32 of the cases.
In figure 3 we see the difference between being the only active group and being one among many.
Over the full spectrum of level of activity the predicted probability goes from 0.33 to 0.65 – or
twice as high a chance of success. The effects of the remaining variables are generally lower than of
those illustrated here.
Now, what do these findings tell us more generally about influence in consultations? A main
conclusion is that group level variables are not as important for influence as sometimes assumed.
Over a large number of consultations, business groups are indeed more successful than trade
unions and groups with professional resources and broad policy portfolios are also more
influential than others. In any specific consultation business interests are, however, not more likely
than others to be accommodated and the role of group resources is less prevalent.
Figure 3: Predicted probabilities of success with increased levels of group participation (all other
variables kept at mean)
Note: The light grey lines illustrate the 95 percent confidence interval
In contrast, influence seems to have more to do with contextual variables related to the policy in
question and the mobilization of groups. Groups lobbying in regard to specific regulation and in
instances where the government is not cutting back are more successful than others. Also, when
many groups mobilize and when the attitude of individual groups as well as across all active
groups is positive influence is more likely.
5. Conclusion
In many ways the results fit a description of Danish bill consultations as an insider’s game. The
level of participation in consultations is moderate compared to other countries and most
participants are well-known groups representing major societal interests. We find no evidence of
success being related to large-scale mobilization of opposition to bills. Rather, those groups who
are generally positive towards bills but have suggestions for improvements are able to affect the
content. And, if this is combined with having the resources to professionally engage in a
consultation and some interest in the bill from other groups, influence is more likely. The nature of
the interests represented makes less of a difference, although the groups mobilized within different
policy areas clearly differ.
The present study has focused on one specific stage of the policy process. The picture of influence
arrived at can only be partial. Much may have been won prior to a bill being sent for consultation,
and changes also happen after the bill is introduced to parliament. However, we are confident that
what we capture is indeed an important part of politics. When bills are sent out for consultations,
groups reply and the fact that major interests groups are found among the most active participants
testify to the importance these groups attach to being active in consultations. Also, group
comments do make a difference as accommodations are made in response to many of the
comments received. These may be of varying importance, but there is clearly something to be
gained from consultation participation.
In comparing the results with other studies much variation exists. Fewer groups reply to
consultations on Danish bills than to US consultations on administrative rule-making, EU
Commission consultations and Swedish consultations on public reports and the pattern of
mobilization differ with organized interest being more dominant in Danish consultations (Klüver,
2011; Lundberg, 2012; J. W. Yackee & Yackee, 2006). While this may be connected to overall
differences in group populations and institutional arrangements for incorporating groups into
public decision making, it is also likely to be related to the specific institutions governing the
consultations. Consultations held at different stages of the policy process and with different set-
ups for replying are likely to lead to different patterns of mobilization. From a normative
perspective this is encouraging because it points to the option politicians and bureaucrats have for
including more diverse participation by shaping institutional arrangements.
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