A common view in scholarly literature and public debate is that the relationship between political parties and interest groups shapes the nature of democratic governance. Nevertheless, party-group relations have been largely overlooked by political scientists. Therefore, the overall aim of this research project was to advance the state of the art in the field by seeking to systematically examine (1) the nature, (2) the shaping factors and (3) the consequences for policy decision-making of party-group relationships in long-established democracies across the world.
Empirically, we aimed to first map similarities and differences within and across political systems, primarily looking at the strength/weakness of party-group ties and exclusiveness/inclusiveness of individual party and interest group networks. Next, the project sought to test hypotheses about what factors explain major variation in the strength of ties at the country and/or party/group level. Last, but not least, we wanted to examine empirically to what extent (the strength of) ties between parties and interest groups actually affect the political decisions made. In addition, we aimed to generate cross-national data sets to be made publicly available later.
To reach these goals, the project has collected new data through surveys of 1) parties? central organizations, 2) legislative party groups and 3) interest groups. The party surveys cover all minor and major parties in 19 mature democracies, while the interest group survey covers representative samples of groups in seven such countries. We concentrated on associations and organizations. In addition, there is a party dataset based on codings of party statutes and party finance data. In sum, the PAIRDEM datasets include a high number of indicators of different aspects of party-group relationships.
Based on these data, in combination with other data sources, we have managed to reach all the project?s sub-goals. We have defined ?relationships? to consist of those measures and procedure through which parties and interest groups may regularly interact. The strength of ties deals with how formal or otherwise structured the interaction is. In addition, we have revealed that such ties vary along single, hierarchical scale of strength: those with formalized ties tend to have weaker less formal ties as well, but not the other way around.
Regarding nature of contemporary party-interest group relationships, the project has shown that organizational ties still exist, also between parties and groups that have not been connected historically. The findings suggest that it is common to have ties to multiple parties/groups. However, there is also significant variation in terms of strength of ties, between and above all within countries: between parties, groups and party-group pairs. Some groups have no such ties at all, either because they are unable to or because they do not want to. Having weaker ties is most common, but there are also medium-strong and some strongly institutionalized relationships.
Regarding possible explanations for such variation, the results provide support for the expectation that what parties may offer each other in terms of resources like financial donations and access to government matters. At the same time, we have nuanced the traditional «exchange model», by showing that there is a difference between explaining the basic existence of ties and the strength of existing ties. Moreover, we have specified the role of ideology, by studying the possible effect of positions along specific policy dimensions. In sum, our findings suggest that both policy proximity and resources matter for party-group ties.
As far as the context is concerned, the results suggest that the pattern of party competition matters for the existence of ties between parties and interest groups. In sub-studies currently in progress we are examining the significance of state regulations, like corporatist arrangements and party finance regime, for the strength of party-group ties.
Finally, findings suggest that ties are positively associated with interest groups perceived influence on parties? policy decisions. Thus, maintaining relations and not just seek influence «ad hoc» in single issues, may have substantive value for groups seeking to influence parties? policy positions in specific issues and in turn, the outcome of public decision-making.
Når det gjelder virkninger i form av endringer i kompetanse, adferd, praksis og/eller politikk har prosjektet for det første hevet kompetansen i fagmiljøet for parti- og interessegruppeforskning ved Universitetet i Oslo. For det andre har prosjektet direkte og indirekte bidratt til ny rekruttering til dette forskningsmiljøet i Norge. For det tredje har prosjektet styrket de involvertes posisjon og internasjonale nettverk innen parti- og interessegruppeforskning.
Når det gjelder langsiktige endringer på samfunnsnivå, har prosjektet bidratt til å bygge bro mellom to tradisjonelt separate forskningsfelt. Slik har PAIRDEM vært med på å revitalisere studiet av grenseflaten mellom parti- og interessegruppepolitikk. Prosjektets funn har også flere teoretiske implikasjoner som kan tenkes å påvirke den kollektive forståelsen av og organiseringen av demokrati på lengre sikt.
Even though both studies of parties and interest groups constitute 'highways' of research, the relationship between them has been largely overlooked by political scientists to date. From the party side, it has regularly been argued that the traditionally strong links between particular parties and other civil society organizations have weakened along with social cleavages, but the lack of common concepts and systematic empirical evidence prevent clear conclusions from being drawn and also make the literat ure on causes and consequences of party-group links sparse. The proposed project aims to fill all these lacunas in the literature.
First, we need to find a way to conceptualize party-group relationships that reduces the dimensions along which they can va ry. Empirically, the project consists of three parts or sets of research questions. The first part will assess the nature of today's relationships between parties and interest groups, by mapping similarities and differences mainly in terms of the organiza tional closeness and range of relationships. Second, we aim to test various theory-driven hypotheses concerning the factors that shape party-group links, to explain, in particular, major variation in the degrees of institutionalization at the country and/ or party/group level. Last, but not least, the proposed project will examine empirically whether (the weakness/strength of) links with interest groups actually affect the political decision-making of parties/unions (power relations). The project is divide d into three empirical modules:
1) An extensive study of all old democracies (party statutes and survey)
2) A comparative study of selected old democracies (both party and interest group survey)
3) Use of other data sets (like manifesto data).
As a result, this large comparative and collaborative project will contribute to scientific progress within several sub-disciplines of political science and other fields, too.