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Dead or alive? A study of survival in the Danish interest group population 1976-2010 Helene Marie Fisker, Department of Political Science, Aarhus University.

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Presentation on theme: "Dead or alive? A study of survival in the Danish interest group population 1976-2010 Helene Marie Fisker, Department of Political Science, Aarhus University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Dead or alive? A study of survival in the Danish interest group population Helene Marie Fisker, Department of Political Science, Aarhus University Aim and research question Interest group populations have recently gained much attention from interest group scholars. How a population of interest groups is comprised has important democratic implications as the composition of an interest group population reveals which constituency generates representation and which does not. One factor that shapes populations is interest group deaths. Some groups are more vulnerable than others, and this can introduce an additional source of bias in the interest group population. Therefore, this paper will investigate which factors affect the risk that interest groups die. Research question: Does factors such as population-level competition, interest groups’ resources and interest groups’ characteristics affect the life chances of interest groups? Definitions Interest groups are defined as formal organizations with members who work on the national level and seek to influence public policy but who do not run for elections. An interest group population is defined as the total number of existing interest groups within a system. Design and method Case: The Danish interest group population between 1976 and The population list A list of all Danish interest groups that existed in 1976 was constructed. The starting point was a survey conducted in 1976 on all Danish national interest groups. This list was supplemented with data on all interest groups that sent letters to the Danish parliament’s standing committees in 1976 and data on all groups that had seats in the Danish administrative committees in A list of all interest groups existing in 2010 was scrutinized to find groups that was founded before Dependent variable The study’s dependent variable is how the individual groups developed from 1976 to To investigate this, all groups on the list were tracked to find out what happened to them between 1976 and A coding scheme was developed with eight categories that measured whether the group was still alive and unchanged, whether the group had changed in some way or whether the group had died (see table 1). In the statistical analysis, a dichotomous variable (death/alive) was used. Independent variables Almost all the groups on this study’s population list (96.4 per cent) responded to the survey conducted in 1976 on all Danish national interest groups. Combining these historical data with the information gathered to this study regarding what happened to the groups between 1976 and 2010 makes it possible to analyze which factors can explain whether a group survived or died between 1976 and 2010 (see table 2). Results The most important findings from the analysis is that the number of members, the number of paid staff and whether a group is represented in a board or committee have a negative effect on the risk of dying. The effects of these variables are so large that they are substantially interesting. Age and group type may play a somewhat limited role. Population competition does not seem to have any effect on the probability of dying for interest groups in the Danish population. The variable measuring competition was insignificant in the bivariate analysis, and it was excluded from the multivariate analysis as a large number of groups did not answer the question. This suggest that especially the factors referred to as group resources may affect the life chances of interest groups. DevelopmentNumberPer cent Unchanged76138,0 Name change22811,4 Changed substantively160,8 Merged1537,6 Absorbed by other group321,6 Dead80240,0 Divided40,2 No longer interest group90,5 Total ,0 VariableCoefficient Individual members (ln) -0,170(0,037) *** Company members (ln) -0,194(0,053) *** Regional organization members (ln) -0,313(0,091) ** National organization members (ln) -0,415(0,131) ** Selective incentives -0,047(0,061) Frequency of contact with decision makers 0,127(0,130) Represented in boards/committees -0,641(0,176) *** Number of policy areas with contact to decision makers -0,018(0,049) Number of paid staff (ln) -0,228(0,099) * Age -0,004(0,002) # Group type (reference unions) Business 0,093(0,259) Institutional -0,083(0,421) Occupational -0,448(0,258) Identity -0,232(0,303) Hobby -1,181(0,325) *** Religious 0,634(0,569) Public0,091 (0,375) Constant 1,334 (0,318) *** Pseudo R 2 0,110 Discussion That resources are important corresponds partly to some of the findings from Gray and Lowery’s studies of niche theory. They find that especially membership and financial resources are important for group survival. However, they also find that interaction with decision makers is less important for group survival. The results from the present study also suggests that especially the size of membership and financial resources are important for the groups’ survival, which corresponds to Gray and Lowery’s results. However, this study also suggests that having a privileged position in the decision-making process by being represented in a board or a committee is at least as important as members and finances when it comes to survival. This is an important difference. One explanation could be the differences between the two systems under investigation. Gray and Lowery’s case is the US pluralist system where interaction between interest groups and decision makers is not formalized. The case of this study is the Danish corporative system where the interactions are formalized. A privileged position in the decision-making process may simply be a more valuable resource in a corporative system than in a pluralist system and therefore more important for the interest groups’ survival. The difference between corporative and pluralist systems may also explain why competition does not seem to be important for survival in the Danish corporative system. A corporative interest group system is more structured and ordered than pluralist ones. Therefore, the corporative structures may suppress the competition mechanism. Where pluralist systems may be viewed as an ongoing food fight between interest groups, corporative systems may be viewed as a supermarket where groups stand in line to exchange resources with decision makers. Therefore, the competition aspect may be less important for survival in corporative systems than in pluralist ones. Theory and hypothesis The theoretical expectations as to which factors increase the risk that groups die are divided into three categories: population-level competition, group resources and organizational traits. Population-level competition One of the most fundamental assumptions about populations is that interest groups compete for scarce resources to survive. This competition between a population’s groups provides a feedback mechanism that prevents new groups from forming and extinguish already existing groups. This leads to the expectation that the higher the level of competition a group faces, the higher the risk that the group dies. Group resources Membership size. Many members may give a high degree of political legitimacy as large groups represent a large constituency. Therefore, many members may contribute to a group’s security. It can be expected that the more members a group has the lower the risk that the group dies. Selective incentives. According to Olson, groups must deliver selective incentives to their members if they want to avoid free riding. Therefore, it is expected that the more selective incentives that groups offer their members, the lower risk that the group dies. Access to decision makers. Groups must approach decision makers on the issues that they are concerned about if they want to justify themselves as political organizations. Access to decision makers contributes to a group’s unique identity, which is positive for a group’s survival chances. Therefore, it is expected that the more and better access that groups have to decision makers, the lower the risk that the group will die. Staff. Groups need staff to sustain themselves. The number of staff is a good indicator for the groups’ financial capacity, and financial capacity is positive for survival chances. It is therefore expected that higher numbers of paid staff will lead to a lower probability that the group will die. Organizational traits Age. A common hypothesis in the literature on organizational survival is that young organizations have greater risk of failure than older ones as they have not yet established their position. This leads to the expectation that younger groups have a higher risk of dying than older groups. Group type. The literature does not give rise to any specific expectations regarding which group types have the highest risk of dying. Therefore, no concrete expectations are set up, but it will be explored whether group type has an effect on the risk that groups die. Table 1. Overview of the groups’ development Table 2. Logistic regression. Death as independent variable (death=1) *** P<0,001, **P<0,01, *P<0,5, #<0,10 n= 982, standard errors in parentheses


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