In densely populated organised interest systems groups, being acknowledged by policy makers as a prominent player is important. If being viewed as relevant by policy makers is a critical ingredient of political advocacy, this raises the question for interest group scholars: Why are some groups more prominent than others among policy makers?
In this paper we introduce an additional approach (to the existing focus on involvement and access measures) with which to conceptualise group engagement – namely prominence – and report an approach to measuring it empirically. In the legislative arena, we define prominence as groups being deployed as a resource by legislators in their routine political speech. We clarify the concept of prominence and develop an innovative method for measuring it in the legislative arena. Using mentions of over 1300 national interest groups in the Hansard of the Australian Parliament spanning a six year period (2010-16), we apply a supervised machine learning solution to reliably assess the varying prominence of groups in the legislative debate. Descriptive analysis points to how the partisan and policy context can shape their prominence in legislative speech. We report preliminary analysis, which tests the role of group type and group organisational characteristics in explaining variations in prominence across the Australian group system.
* This work is the result of an ongoing collaboration with Timothy Graham (ANU) and Bert Fraussen (Leiden University) based on an ARC Discovery Project [DP140104097].
Darren Halpin is Professor of Political Science at the School of Politics and International Relations, Australian National University. He is Co-editor of the journal Interest Groups and Advocacy and the Foundation Series Editor for the book series Interest Groups, Advocacy and Democracy (Palgrave, UK). His research agenda examines interest groups in the policy process, with specific emphasis on the political representation provided by groups, the level of (and necessity for) internal democracy within groups, and in assessing group organizational development/capacity. Darren has undertaken research in several country contexts, including Australia, the UK, Denmark and the US, and also has an interest in group advocacy at the international level. These themes are explored in his two recent books, Groups, Representation and Democracy (Manchester University Press) and The Organization of Political Interest Groups (Routledge).