Public Voices in the Heavenly Chorus? Group Type Bias and Opinion Representation

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While strong voices in the academic literature and real-world politics regard interest groups as biased representatives of the public, we know little about the scope and consequences of such biases for democratic governance. We conduct the first cross-national comparison of group and public preferences analyzing a new dataset of 50 issues in five West European countries. Despite the negative image of interest groups in politics, we find that their positions are in line with public opinion more than half the time. Moreover, while firms and business associations enjoy weaker support for their positions among citizens than public interest groups, they still enjoy the backing of a sizable share of the public. Additionally, we find no general pattern that communities with low interest group diversity are less likely to represent public opinion. Our findings have implications for democratic governance and discussions of how to conceptualize and measure biases in interest representation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of European Public Policy
Issue number19
Pages (from-to)824-842
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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