Advocacy Strategies of Industry and Environmental Interest Groups in Oil and Gas Policy Debates

Jennifer A. Kagan, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, United States; Kristin L. Olofsson, Oklahoma State University, United States

Our recent article, published in Policy & Politics, aims to deepen our understanding of how industry and environmental groups perceive their advocacy strategies and effectiveness.  The study context is oil and gas policy conflicts in Colorado State in the US, and data derive from two saves of a survey (administered in 2015 and 2017) of individuals involved in these conflicts.  This study focuses specifically on individuals from industry groups – such as oil and gas companies or professional associations – and environmental groups, such as environmental nonprofits.   

Existing research examines a variety of reasons why advocates choose certain strategies or tactics over others.  Early research suggested that insiders—or those with resources, including ties to decision makers—prefer inside tactics, such as lobbying.  On the other hand, outsiders—or those without inside connections—tend to use outside tactics, such as protesting or mobilizing the public.  Industry groups, who represent their own narrow economic interests, are typically considered insiders, while environmental groups, who typically represent broader public interests, are usually considered outsiders.  Recent research suggests that both insiders and outsiders use a range of inside and outside tactics, and studies explore other factors that influence strategy decisions, such as resources, professionalization, and policy context.  This study builds on recent research by examining whether perceptions of different types of strategies vary between industry and environmental groups, and whether these differences can be explained by perceptions of decision-making venues, specifically the state legislature and regulatory agencies.   

Results demonstrate a few phenomena.  First, consistent with expectations, industry groups view inside tactics as more effective than do other policy actors, including individuals from environmental groups. Environmental groups views outside tactics as more effective than do policy actors, including those from industry groups.  We then tested whether perceptions of inside tactics are moderated or affected by perceptions of decision-making venues.  While perceptions of regulatory agencies influence industry representatives’ perceptions of the effectiveness of inside tactics, perceptions of the state legislature do not have similar effects.  In other words, when industry groups see regulatory agencies in a positive light, they are more likely to report that their inside tactics (such as lobbying) are effective. However, viewing the state legislature in a positive light may not change perceptions of tactic effectiveness.  We also tested similar models for environmental groups, and results were inconclusive. 

This study holds implications for democracy in that perceptions of regulatory venues, which are historically less accessible and where considerable oil and gas policy is made, has a clear influence on the perceived effectiveness of tactics.  However, this study does not demonstrate that perceptions of the state legislature, which is typically more democratic, similarly affect strategy effectiveness.  Not only do results contribute to our understanding of the factors that may influence strategy decisions, but they also hold implications for procedural environmental justice.  That is, industry groups continue to report using inside tactics more effectively, while environmental groups find less success on the inside and instead resort to outside tactics to pressure decision-makers.  Also, overall, industry groups hold more positive perceptions of decision-making venues, and at least regarding regulatory agencies, these perceptions are associated with more effective use of advocacy strategies.  This suggests that, under some circumstances, industry groups are likely to hold more sway and achieve their preferred oil and gas policy outcomes. 

This article makes a clear contribution to the interest group literature concerning tactics, perceptions and venues, providing insights for those studying and working in environmental policy and interest group advocacy. 

You can read the original research in Policy & Politics:

Kagan, J. A., & Olofsson, K. L. (2023). Advocacy strategies of industry and environmental interest groups in oil and gas policy debates, Policy & Politics51(1), 180-202. Retrieved Feb 14, 2023, from

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Policy & Politics, the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

If you enjoyed this blog post, you may also be interested to read:

Heinmiller, B. T. (2023). Advocacy coalitions, power and policy change, Policy & Politics51(1), 28-46

Wagner, P. M., Ocelík, P., Gronow, A., Ylä-Anttila, T., & Metz, F. (2023). Challenging the insider outsider approach to advocacy: how collaboration networks and belief similarities shape strategy choices, Policy & Politics51(1), 47-70.

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