Seminar with Adriana Bunea (University of Bergen)
The title of the presentation: "Explaining interest groups' information networks in the European Union
Interest groups are key actors in the design, formulation and implementation of EU policies. They constitute a valuable source of information, expertise and legitimacy for supranational decision-makers and play a key role in the process of European integration. Although networks are a distinctive feature of EU lobbying and policymaking, we lack a systematic analysis of interest groups' information networks. We address this gap in research and examine the formation and structure of information networks based on social media data. We conceptualize interest groups as information and reputation maximizers, and develop a theoretical argument outlining how key actor-level characteristics shape and affect the likelihood of contact-making and tie formation on Twitter. Our analyses account for the effects of network interdependencies on actors' propensity to establish an information tie. We test our argument on a new dataset containing information about the information network ties between 7,388 interest groups registered in the EU Transparency Register and having a Twitter account. Our empirical analysis uses exponential random graph models (ERGM) to study networks across forty different EU policy areas. We show that, across policy areas, homophily is key in understanding EU information networks: interest groups are more likely to establish an information tie with actors who share their interest type and country of origin. Also, interest groups are more likely to establish a tie with an organization that is a policy insider and has frequent access to EU decision-makers, in line with the argument that perceived influence of an interest organization is key in determining its network ties and positioning. In the exploratory part of analysis, we examine policy and interest group community characteristics that drive the variation in interest type and country homophily. While variation in country homophily seems driven by multiple factors, clearer patterns emerge in relation to interest type homophily. It is lowest in regulatory policies, medium high in (re-)distributive policy domains and highest in foreign and interior policies. The observed differences between regulatory and (re-) distributive policies are driven by the lower levels of diversity of the interest group community in regulatory policy areas. This lower diversity derives from the predominant presence of business groups in this policy domains.