Social Embeddedness in Stakeholder Networks and Legislators’ Policy Preferences: The Case of German Livestock Policy
In a world of increasing complexity, politicians have only limited information about the relationship of policies and the outcomes. They often make use of simplified heuristics, i.e. policy beliefs. Hence, an influence opportunity for in- terest groups occurs: informational lobbying. It complements classic lobbying strategies, e.g. vote buying or campaign spending. Providing expert knowledge allows interest groups to influence legislators towards the preferred policy posi- tion. Aside from so-called "approved votes", German parliamentarians generally follow parliamentary group’s discipline. Thus, experts’ role within parliamentary groups is crucial. They deal with key issues and represent the parliamentary group in the committees. Furthermore, they work out the group’s positions on these specific issues. They are the starting point for interest groups to dissemi- nate their information and hence influence the legislators’ positions. An exemplary field of complexity is the agricultural sector. In particular, live- stock production is challenged by questions of sustainability, i.e. public expec- tations towards animal welfare, producers and consumers’ welfare as well as ecological consequences. Importance of animal welfare is demonstrated by the ongoing debate about piglet castration or husbandry system standards. This raises two questions: First, to what extend are stakeholders able to gain direct access to politicians? Second, how can they use this structure to influence policy decisions? Using a social network approach, we first investigate the structure of three networks: exchange of expert knowledge, political support and informal social ties. In particular, we put emphasis on the connection between parliamen- tary actors and other stakeholders from society, i.e. interest groups. This refers to the first question. Second, we apply a model of political exchange using infor- mation and lobbying networks. Following Henning et al. (2019), this model not only includes political exchange, but also belief updating. Moreover, it considers direct as well as indirect ties. This analysis step serves to answer the second question.