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Setting the Party Agenda: Interest Groups, Voters and Issue Attention

  • Heike Klüver

Do political parties respond to interest group mobilization? While party responsiveness to voters has received widespread attention, little is known about how interest groups affect parties’ policy agendas. I argue that political parties respond to interest groups as lobbyists offer valuable information, campaign contributions, electoral support and personal rewards, but that party responsiveness is conditioned by voter preferences. Based on a novel longitudinal analysis studying the responsiveness of German parties to interest groups across eleven issue areas and seven elections from 1987 until 2009, it is shown that parties adjust their policy agendas in response to interest group mobilization and that interest groups are more successful in shaping party policy when their priorities coincide with those of the electorate.

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Department of Social Sciences, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (E-mail: I thank Elisabeth Zeidler, Emanuel Deutschmann, Elisabeth Glück, Marcus Carlsen Häggrot, Svenja Krauss, Jens Olesen, Lara Panning, Jochen Rehmert, Jonas Reißmann and David Schmuck for valuable research assistance. I am moreover grateful to the Fritz Thyssen Foundation (Grant Az. and the British Academy (Grant SG111433) which generously funded research for this article. Finally, I am grateful for valuable comments and suggestions from Tarik Abou-Chadi, Iskander de Bruycker and participants at the 2016 ECPR Joint Sessions Workshop ‘Public Opinion and Public Policy – Analyzing Feedback Effects in Comparative Politics’ at Pisa. The data, replication instructions, and the data’s codebook can be found in Harvard Dataverse at and online appendices at: 10.1017/S0007123418000078.

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