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Interest Groups in Spain: Participation in the Governmental and Parliamentary Arena (INTER)

From January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2015

The main purpose of this research project is to promote a comprehensive theoretical and empirical understanding of the role that interest groups play in the Spanish political system. Specifically we will examine interest groups mobilization across different policy venues and time, and the strategies they use to influence political decision making. For decades, political scientists have described the policy making as a process that takes place within closed policy communities characterized by the participation of few interest organizations that exchange information and resources vis-à-vis governmental actors, with high levels stability and control of the political agenda. Existing case studies in Spain and other advanced democracies illustrate how in most policy areas there are policy communities, which exhibit both stability and exclusiveness of access across time. Our goal is to test empirically whether this pattern of interest groups participation can be generalized across policy subsystems, and to what extend there are variations of across time.

To do that, we will develop a comprehensive database about the mobilization of interest groups in the governmental and parliamentarian arena from 1986 to 2011 in Spain. More specifically, we will analyze all the appearances (comparecencias) of interest groups in the Spanish Parliament, and all the collegiate bodies (órganos colegiados) through which the Spanish government formally interacts with interest organizations for the discussion of policy issues. With this database we will map out which organized interests have access to the governmental and parliamentary arenas, and how participation varies across policy issues and across time.

This database is also a fundamental tool to analyze why participation of interest groups has changed over time. More specifically, we test whether changes in the participation of interest groups are related to regulatory reforms involving the entry of new ideas and ways of thinking about problems as the agenda setting approach would predict; and whether increasing delegation of political authority towards the EU and CCAA has altered the pattern of mobilization of interest groups in the parliamentarian and governmental arena. Finally, we test to what extend formal access to the governmental and parliamentary arenas is important to explain the ability of interest groups to influence policy outcomes To answers these questions we will also go into an in-depth analysis of ten issues, selected according to the methodology of the Intereuro research project. For each issue, we identify the policy positions of all the interest organizations involved in the policy making process. From here we assess which policy positions are taken into account in the final policy decisions.

With this research project we will cover the lack of systematic data about the role of interest groups in the Spanish political system, going beyond case studies; we will test empirically existing hypothesis developed by different approaches, and at the same time will try to make a theoretical contribution about the ability of interest groups to influence policy outcomes in a new context of multilevel governance. By using the same methodology as two other international research projects, we will be able to contribute to the internationalization of research communities, and compare the case of Spain with other EU countries and the US. Finally, we create a new tool about interest groups mobilization that will be available in the future for all scholars.

External Contributors