However, 89% of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that ‘ethical and transparent lobbying helps policy development’ and most groups of lobbyists were generally perceived as being transparent, most notably trade associations, professional organisations, companies, trade unions and NGOs.
These five groups were among those most commonly perceived as lobbyists; the other group generally thought of as lobbyists - public affairs agencies - were seen as less transparent. 37% of respondents saw the most positive aspect of lobbying as being its ability to ensure participation of social and economic actors and citizens in the political process. ‘Providing useful and timely information’ was cited by 28% of respondents and ‘raising the local or national importance of an issue’ by 20%, although this rose to around 50% in Finland and the UK.
Most respondents thought that lobbying was not sufficiently regulated, while opinion was evenly divided on whether increased regulation would come in the next three years. More than half of the respondents thought that a mandatory register for lobbyists would be useful in their country, with less than a quarter disagreeing.
Trade associations were perceived as the most effective lobbyists, followed by professional organisations and NGOs. There were, however, significant variations between countries: for example, in Germany NGOs and public affairs agencies were seen to be most effective. ‘Corporate’ lobbyists (from companies, trade associations and other profit-making entities) were most effective in the energy and healthcare sectors. NGOs fared bette on environment and human rights issues, and on social affairs. Retail and consumer goods lobbyists were perceived to be particularly ineffective.
Differences between the ‘corporate’ and NGO sectors were also evident when policy-makers were asked about poor lobbying practice. ‘Corporate lobbyists’ were most likely to lack transparency, whereas NGOs were most likely to base their positions on emotions rather than facts. Both groups were criticised by around a third of respondents for failing to understand processes and procedures, for being too aggressive, or for arriving too early or too late in the process.
Internal meetings, national authorities’ documents, meetings with industry an written briefing materials were perceived as the most useful types of information to make an informed decision. Specialist news, government websites, scientific websites and traditional media websites were the most helpful online media sources. Social media were generally perceived to be unhelpful and were not frequently consulted. The websites of industry associations, companies and NGOs tend to be visited at least once a week by around 40% of respondents.