Gaining access or going public? Interest group strategies in five European countries


Address for correspondence: Andreas Dür, Department of Political Science and Sociology, University of Salzburg, Rudolfskai 42, 5020 Salzburg, Austria. E-mail:


Interest groups differ in the strategies they use to influence public policy. Some mainly try to gain access (i.e., have direct contact with decision makers), whereas others tend to ‘go public’ by launching campaigns that aim to mobilise the broader public. In this article it is argued that group type – namely the distinction between business associations, professional associations and citizen groups – is a major determinant of the choice of strategy. The effect of group type, however, is conditional on the group's endowment with material resources and the issue context: the differences across group types are largest for resource-rich associations and associations active in distributive policy fields. Original data from surveys of national associations in five European countries (Austria, Germany, Ireland, Latvia and Spain) enable the assessment of this argument. The theoretical expectations are supported, with the results having relevance for the normative evaluation of political systems and the positive study of interest group influence.