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This volume summarizes the origins and development of the organization ecology approach to the study of interest representation and lobbying, and outlines an agenda for future research. Multiple authors from different countries and from different perspectives contribute their analysis of this research program.



1. An Introduction to the Population Ecology Approach

For a very long time, the essential traits of populations of organized interests — their density and diversity — were not considered to be especially interesting. Rather, they were assumed to be simple tallies resulting from mobilization events whereby institutions became active in lobbying or they, along with individual citizens, joined groups or associations that lobbied (Truman 1951; Olson 1965). This changed with the publication of Gray and Lowery’s The Population Ecology of Interest Representation in 1996 (also see: Lowery and Gray 1995). Inspired by core theories of population biology and organization ecology, they outlined a theory that both accounted for observed variations in the density and diversity of interest communities in the American states and suggested ways in which these emergent population characteristics shape organization survival and adaptation, the strategies and tactics interest organizations employ, and how influential these can be in political contexts. Since 1996, the organization ecology research program has engendered work on all of these topics and has been applied to a wide range of political systems, including the European Union, its member states, and international organizations. In short, we now know that the structure of interest communities matters a great deal.
David Lowery, Virginia Gray

2. Organizational Demography Research in the United States

As a general term, demography refers to the study of populations. Organizational demography is the term used to denote the study of organizational populations. Outside of political science, organizational demography is a wide-ranging field that encompasses the study of workforce demography, internal organizational demography, and what many organizational ecologists call corporate demography. Within political science, organizational demography studies fall almost exclusively into this last category. It is these sorts of studies that are the focus of this chapter. Corporate demography was virtually invisible in political science 20 years ago. Today it is a burgeoning but still small field of inquiry that has begun to contribute to our understanding of interest representation in the United States. In this chapter, I provide an overview of the literature on interest group organizational demography in the United States. I wish to note upfront that my overview is far from definitive. In fact, it is the opposite of definitive; my intention here is to introduce the reader to organizational demography research in the United States. Within the field of political science, this research is not plethoric; it is quite limited. My hope is that my introduction here will inspire interest in the subject, interest that will lead to a perusal of the organizational demography research within political science and perhaps without as well.
Anthony J. Nownes

3. Interest Organization Demography Research in Europe

European population ecological studies of interest organizations are rare. The concern about the Schattschneiderian upper-class accent motivating such studies in the United States never gained much traction in European ‘organized’ interest systems. There have been, however, several large-n studies that seek to describe or explain the numbers and types of interest organizations. These fall under several theoretical headings that have some affiliation with ‘population ecological’ interests such as resource dependency or complex associations theory. Such studies tend to focus on a specific sector or organizational type, such as social movement organizations or business interest associations, rather than a system-level behavioral focus on what Jordan et al. (2004) label ‘pressure participants’. Only very recently, scholars in several European countries have initiated system-wide population ecological studies (e.g. Halpin & Jordan 2012, Messer et al. 2010) or have started data collection on such populations of interest organizations (e.g. Fisker 2012, Klüver 2015, Naurin & Borang 2012). In this review I assess the longer running research traditions of large-n studies, recently published ecological studies and some projects that are still ongoing.
Joost Berkhout

4. Toward a Population Ecology Approach to Transnational Advocacy? An Emerging Research Field

The number and scope of transnational organizations has risen markedly during the past decades. According to the Union of International Associations (UIA), each year over a thousand transnational organizations are established, and as a result in 2012 the UIA estimated the existence of no less than 7,608 intergovernmental and an astonishing number of 56,834 nongovernmental organizations (see Given the sheer size of political organizations active in transnational political processes, this chapter argues that the global environment provides an extremely rich setting for studying the organizational development of interest group communities. Unfortunately, interest group scholars have not yet taken full advantage of this rich laboratory, in our opinion mostly because the literature on transnational advocacy developed rather separately from existing interest group studies. We nonetheless see many parallels and overlaps between these literatures, for instance, in terms of key research questions that are asked as well as methodological issues. This chapter, therefore, reviews the transnational advocacy literature from an interest group perspective and in doing so we aim to identify the common ground between both fields as well as some relevant challenges.
Jan Beyers, Marcel Hanegraaff

5. Challenges of Integrating Levels of Analysis in Interest Group Research

In the early 1990s, Virginia Gray and David Lowery embarked on a major research agenda that, after twenty years, has led to a new way of studying interest group politics. Rather than just study the choices individual groups and their lobbyists make in multivariate models using independent variables unique to that group or its lobbying target without regard to context, as was typical in prior work, they argued that the structure of the population of interest groups each organization is embedded in significantly shapes its choices. Important systematic variation from population to population, even from one sub-population to another, influences the births and deaths of groups and the choices their lobbyists make. In other words, the density and structure of group populations matter, and they may matter quite a bit. To study the effects population structures have on group maintenance and advocacy, Gray and Lowery drew on the theory of population ecology from biology, and from it deduced and tested a model of dynamic change in group populations. Then they applied this model to the study of lobbying by individual groups.
Thomas T. Holyoke

6. Organizational Populations: Professionalization, Maintenance and Democratic Delivery

Interest groups do not have complete directorial control of their own destiny — even mature and savvy professionalized organized interests face significant challenges. Intra- and inter-group circumstances and other contextual factors (e.g. political opportunity structures, political agenda and patronage opportunities) account for the shape of organizational universes.1 However, as Halpin and Jordan (2009: 247) argue, ‘the manipulative “fngers” of interest-group leaders and managers surely shape the observed population levels’. Group leaders and entrepreneurs can effect survival and maintenance chances (and the organizational universes their groups inhabit) by altering the mix of incentives on offer to supporters and policy-makers, and the decisions they take on: the organizational policy-making focus (e.g. a broad policy area, a limited range of issues or a single issue); issue priorities; strategies and tactics; and organizational structure (e.g. hierarchical or non-hierarchical, to be a member, supporter or memberless2 group, or the degree and depth of democratic institutionalization). Gray and Lowery (1996), Lowery and Gray (2004a: 18–19), Bosso (2005: 150), Young (2010: 159) and Duffy (2012: 4) have all shown how increasing governmental action (via legislation, programmes and agencies) and spending has stimulated the creation of new organizations (Duffy, 2012: 4; Gray and Lowery, 1996).
William A. Maloney

7. Case Study Approaches to Studying Organization Survival and Adaptation

Our early knowledge of organized interests was drawn almost entirely from case studies of particular interest organizations and pieces of legislation (e.g. Bauer et al. 1964; Schattschneider 1935). Though large-n statistical studies have become the norm in interest group research, case studies comprise some of the more insightful and influential work on organized interests in the last couple of decades (e.g. Bosso 2005; Brown 1995; Hansen 1991; Rothenberg 1992) and represent the first take at understanding emerging organizations, such as the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street (Gitlin 2012; Martin 2013; Skocpol and Williamson 2013). Here, I discuss what the case study research has to say about the questions motivating population ecology research.
Christopher Witko

8. Lobbying as a Leveraged Act: On Resource Dependencies and Lobby Presence

It is hard to imagine any advanced western democracy functioning without the involvement of interest groups. One of the most fundamental concerns of political scientists regarding this long-standing practice is the imbalance in the number and type of interest groups involved in public decision making. Business associations tend to vastly outnumber any other type of interest groups, in particular those representing public interests. This ‘mobilization bias’ has been a remarkably persistent phenomenon across time, government venues and entire political systems (Lowery et al. 2005; Messer et al. 2010; Olson 1965; Schattschneider 1970[1960]). And in our contemporary multi-level governance systems these long-existing mobilization biases seem only to be reinforced (Beyers and Kerremans 2007; Hanegraaff et al. 2011; Kohler-Koch and Quittkat 2013). Indeed, recent studies mostly demonstrate that business groups are more often present at key political institutions at national and supranational governance levels and employ a broader set of lobby tactics than citizen groups do (Beyers and Kerremans 2007; Dur and Matteo 2013; Eising 2007; Hanegraaff et al. 2011; Kohler-Koch and Quittkat 2013; Rasmussen and Carroll 2013). By now this skewed distribution has almost become a truism and variables representing the distinction between businesses and citizen groups in statistical analyses are often considered control variables rather than main effects.
Caelesta Braun

9. Louder Chorus — Same Accent: The Representation of Interests in Pressure Politics, 1981–2011

Citizens in American democracy have many channels for the expression of political voice, one among them being organized interest politics in Washington. But the representation of citizen preferences and needs in organized interest politics is neither universal nor representative. That is, not all voices speak equally loudly in organized advocacy politics and systematic processes operate to influence which voices are amplified by a megaphone and which ones speak in a whisper. The result is pronounced inequalities of political voice. In this chapter, we draw upon the Washington Representatives Study, an extensive database covering the period from 1981 to 2011, to examine how the growth and changing composition of the pressure system have affected the extent to which it is representative of the American public.1 We find that, for all the diversity among the thousands of organizations active in Washington, the free-rider problem and the resource-constraint problem have a profound impact on political input from organizations. Policymakers hear much more from advocates for narrow interests than from supporters of broad public interests and much more from those with deep pockets than from the less affluent.
Kay Lehman Schlozman, Philip Edward Jones, Hye Young You, Traci Burch, Sidney Verba, Henry E. Brady

10. Interest Community Influence: A Neopluralist Perspective

In the United States each year organizations spend about $200 million on federal campaign contributions and more than $3 billion on lobbying the federal government (Center for Responsive Politics 2014a, 2014b). Thousands of businesses and other organizations maintain full-time offices in the nation’s capital for the sole purpose of communicating with government. The pattern is repeated at the state and even the local levels. Politicians and the news media decry the power of “special interests,” and political scientists themselves find that organized interests are embedded in all aspects of the policymaking process. And yet, evidence of interest group power often escapes the grasp of systematic research. Although lobbyists make convenient scapegoats, the degree to which organized interests wield influence in politics is far from clear. Scholarly findings are mixed and any power that organized interests may wield is highly contingent.
Beth L. Leech

11. Population Dynamics and Representation

The study of interest group populations has come a long way since the early enumerations by Bentley (1908), Odegard (1928), Herring (1929), Schattschneider (1935), and other pre-World War Two scholars. E. E. Schattschneider (1960), of course, focused our attention on the class and occupational bias in the interest group system with his observation that the group system is heavily tilted to over-represent those who are the wealthiest and therefore might be thought to need government assistance the least. Other scholars tended to focus, as Schattschneider did, on the perils of the interest group system and its heavy corporate character — often veering into concerns over bribery and corruption. Schattschneider’s assessment, based on his idea of conflict expansion, was that the two-party system and electoral politics were the solution to the problem of the class bias in the group system, which he saw as inevitably tilted toward the rich. His work argued that the party system could be the solution to this problem, and his work then focused on how conflict expansion processes typically favored the underdog and that the government often came to the side of the disadvantaged. Schattschneider’s insights about conflict expansion and the role of government go a long way in explaining why different social and economic groups have different appreciations of government intervention into the private economy.
Frank R. Baumgartner, Kelsey Shoub

12. The Influence of Organization Ecology Research on Population Ecology of Interest Representation: Present Practices and Future Prospects

The population ecology (PE) approach to the study of interest representation (see, for instance, Gray and Lowery 1996) gave the sub-field a solid rationale to take an aggregate view of interest organizations, focusing on dynamics at the population level, rather than processes of formation and maintenance at the level of individual groups.
Darren R. Halpin

13. Beyond Metaphor: Populations and Groups, Interests, and Lobbyists

For almost 20 years, Virginia Gray, David Lowery, their students, and a number of other scholars have relentlessly developed a theory of interests drawn from population ecology (PE) theory. Their contributions have proved substantial; much contemporary scholarship on organized interests takes populations into account as a significant explanatory variable in their birth, death, and evolution (Halpin and Jordan, 2012). The other chapters in this volume build upon this considerable research to assess its progress and considerable potential.
Burdett Loomis

14. The Future of Organization Ecology in Interest Representation

Research informed by organization ecology theory, as we have seen throughout this volume, has been extensive in both its application across different kinds of political systems and the several levels of substantive foci it has addressed. From being something of an odd stepchild when it was first introduced, it is now part of the mainstream of the literature on interest representation. Yet, as the authors of the chapters have noted, there remain many uncertainties both in terms of theory and the data used to test them, suggesting that there are many more opportunities for research inspired by this approach to understanding the politics of interest representation. Just as importantly, the several chapters indicate that the work that has been done is uneven in its attention to components of the influence production process; interest system demography has perhaps been the most dominant focus of this body of research and niche theory and its implications for lobbying less well studied. In this final chapter, we consider these relative successes and failures, and we discuss in a more compact manner what the authors have described as outstanding opportunities for further research, adding some of our own suggestions as well. We do so by addressing the issues raised by each section of the book in turn.
David Lowery, Darren R. Halpin, Virginia Gray


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