Lobbying impact is notoriously difficult to measure: or is it?

Lobbying impact is notoriously difficult to measure: or is it?

HLC welcomed Dr. David Marshall to present a large scale analysis of Brussels lobbying.

Trends in lobbying are often analysed on the basis of anecdotal evidence. At HLC, we think it is important to take a step back from the noise from time to time, and look at the numbers. Who wins? Who loses? What approach works best, where? We examined a study that looked at over 1000 policy positions on more than 100 pieces of EU legislation. 

Dr. David Marshall (LSE, University of Aberdeen) was recently invited to HLC to discuss his study on the lobbying success of businesses versus CSOs. David’s latest research points to the fact that, when it comes to EU legislation, money, expertise and access to decision-makers can only get you so far, and business, more often than not, does not get what it wants. On the contrary, civil society organizations (CSOs) have most to gain from new EU rules. His analysis compared the positions that CSOs and businesses put to the Commission with the outcome of the final legislation. This showed not who was more ‘influential’ – but whose position was reflected best in the final piece of legislation.

The study showed that the more an EU issue becomes controversial, the more business lobby success rates drop – and CSOs’ ‘winning’ streak continues. 

Why is that?

The research suggests that ‘on much of EU legislation, the Commission, in alliance with citizen groups and the European Parliament, wants to change the status quo while business interests seek to defend it. The legislative outcomes tend to shift policy closer to the preferences of citizen groups and further away from the preferences of business interests’

In the debate that followed, participants confirmed the study’s findings, with industry pointing out that often the Commission’s door is closed to those with a perceived economic interest. At the same time, CSOs suggested that NGOs tend to now go for more ‘plausible’ positions, in order to get as much institutional support as possible.

What did we learn?

The discussion highlighted the importance of credibility in running a successful campaign. Institutions seem to be more open to engage with organizations that are viewed as enhancers of the EU’s democratic legitimacy – representative voices of the millions of European voters – as opposed to single interests.

From the widest perspective of the study, we could see alignment between the policy positions of civil society groups, the Commission and the EP, on the one hand, and business and national governments on the other. 

As such, CSOs can increase their policy gains by focusing their lobbying efforts in Brussels. On the other hand, business can also increase their effectiveness by ensuring that an EU lobbying strategy includes a strong national component as well.

HLC will continue to bring to you the latest academic research (including our own!) on quantifying lobbying’s influence in EU politics. Get in touch if you want to find more.