Montesquieu Institute: from science to society

Representation and Civic Participation in the Netherlands, Denmark & the United Kingdom

Current research on the interaction between interest groups and political parties


In several Western European states civic participation has often not been direct but channelled though interest groups. Strong links have traditionally existed between parties and interest groups. In recent years Europe has brought about important changes in representation. Existing studies point to changes in the links between interest groups and parties, but their findings are also somewhat contradictory.

This study makes the first cross national comparison of the interaction between interest groups and political parties in the Netherlands, Denmark and the United Kingdom. It consists of personal interviews with all parties represented in the legislatures in the three countries plus three big surveys of interest groups, which used different sources of instruments to contact their national administration and parliament. Altogether 497 Dutch interest groups received the survey, and the response rate was 55 percent. In addition responses were received from 1500 Danish and British groups.


The study provides an overview of the interaction between interest groups and decision-makers in the three countries. It examines both formal linkages between parties and groups as well as informal patterns of contact between interest groups and the different parties.

The results provide up to date information about which types of contacts different kinds of Dutch interest groups have with the different parties in Parliament. Moreover, they make it possible to systematically compare how different types of groups interact with decision-makers in the three countries. The findings show that there is a considerable degree of variation in the relationship that different parties have with civil society in the three countries. However, they also show that in spite of factors that tend to loosen bonds between interest groups and parties, interest groups of the 21st century are not separated from the parties. Civic participation still to a high extent take place through interest groups. However, there is evidence that the character of the interaction between many interest groups and parties has changed.

The research is carried out by Anne Rasmussen. Rasmussen is an assistant professor of public administration at Leiden University and fellow at the Montesquieu Institute in The Hague. She works in close cooperation with University College London and Copenhagen Business School. The research is funded by the Danish Research Council.

For more information on the fellowship, click here.