Information, Individuals, and Interest Groups
This book grows out of a long-term concern with the conditions under which democratic citizenries are able to influence complex issues of public policy in contemporary postindustrial societies. In particular, we are interested in the means by which individuals are able to acquire, process, and apply policy-relevant information in the pursuit of individual or shared interests. This searching for information on the part of individuals is especially critical when the policy issues in question are of a technical or scientific nature and, as a consequence, present themselves as being highly complex and difficult to assess ( Pierce and Lovrich 1986; Pierce et al. 1989). The research reported in this work focuses on the ways in which interest groups may assist citizens in democratic countries to cope effectively with such complex issues of contemporary public policy.
This potential role of interest groups is examined in the context of environmental policy inasmuch as this area of public affairs commonly features issues of significant complexity from a scientific and technical perspective. While environmental policy issues have become increasingly complex over time as new knowledge about human effects upon the natural ecology becomes available, the environmental policy arena is nonetheless one in which there has been persistent pressure for expanding public involvement in the management of environmental affairs. Finally, environmental politics is a policy arena in which interest group activity has been a major feature of political conflict.
The decision to investigate the information component of interest group roles in democratic politics in a cross-national context was made in order to identify any effects that differing political cultures and dis-