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Surveying Voluntary Membership Organizations: Groups and Parties Compared

How do differences in regulatory frameworks affect the operation, strategies and evolution of voluntary organizations? To address this question we conducted several large-scale online surveys of currently active, nationally and regionally relevant parties and groups (both interest organizations and service-providers) across several democracies. The main goal of this part of the ‘Regulating Civil Society Project’ was to make different types of voluntary membership organizations comparable and generate organization-level data accordingly. This is why it was paramount to develop a questionnaire that is not ‘organization-specific’ whose questions are applicable to political parties, interest groups and service-providing organizations alike. Building on a range of earlier organization-specific studies, the questionnaire contains questions covering a wide range of organizational properties and activities including internal characteristics, resources and staffing, their core activities, challenges and changes thereof.


Group and Party Surveys in Six European Democracies

The countries in which the surveys were conducted were selected based on a detailed comparative analysis of the legal frameworks that are applicable to parties and groups in 19 democracies. This allowed us to deliberately study parties and groups which operate in ‘most different legal settings’ in terms of the permissiveness and the constraints inherent in national legal frameworks. We conducted surveys in Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Switzerland and the UK. In Italy and Ireland we only surveyed political parties. In the remaining four countries Germany, Norway, Switzerland and the UK we surveyed both party and group populations allowing us to engage in direct comparisons between organizational types within and across country. Summary reports for the already completed surveys and first analyses are available below. 


Country Collaborators


Supporting Material

First Analyses

Nicole Bolleyer and Patricia Correa Vila: 'The Role(s) of Members in Parties and Groups in Four European Democracies', Paper Prepared for the 24th International Conference of Europeanists, July 13 2017 in Glasgow, UK (available upon request).

Milka Ivanovska Hadjievska: 'The Impact of Indirect State Benefits on Professionalization and Membership Involvement: A Study of Voluntary Membership Organizations in the UK', Paper Prepared for the 8thECPR Summer School on Interest Group Politics, June 29 – July 07, 2017, University of Bremen/BIGSSS, Germany (available upon request).

Torill Stavenes: ‘Unpacking the Concept of Centralization: A Study of Hierarchical and Vertical Decision-Making Power in Political Parties’, Paper Prepared for the Breaking Boundaries, Humanities and Social Sciences Interdisciplinary Conference, April 27, 2017, Cardiff, Wales (available upon request).

Patricia Correa Vila: Power point presentation for the Regulating Civil Society Workshop, June 30-July 1 2016, University of Exeter, UK

Torill Stavenes: The Relationship between State Resources and New Minor Party Organizations. Evidence from Norway and Italy, Paper Prepared for the ECPR Summer School on Political Parties, September 16 2016, Nottingham, UK (available upon request).