Nearly nine out of 10 of politicians and senior officials from the EU institutions and 19 European countries either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that “ethical and transparent lobbying helps policy development,” according to the fifth survey on effective lobbying in Europe, released by Burson-Marsteller this week.

And most agreed that the majority 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.

“It is reassuring to see that despite some high profile lobbying scandals, ethical transparent lobbying is the norm and highly valued by policy makers across Europe,” says Jeremy Galbraith, CEO of Burson-Marsteller EMEA.

Nonetheless, most respondents felt 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 (53 percent) thought that a mandatory register for lobbyists would be useful in their country, with less than a quarter disagreeing (22 percent).

“Clearly the issue of further regulation of lobbying is on the agenda in many countries across Europe,” says Robert Mack, chairman of Burson-Marsteller’s public affairs practice in EMEA. “Lobbyists must therefore not only worry about the arguments they make on their issues, but how their engagement with policy makers is perceived.”

Trade associations were perceived as the most effective lobbyists (62 percent), 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 with 78 percent and 71 percent respectively. 

Specialist news, government websites, scientific websites and traditional media websites were the most helpful online media sources. Surprisingly social media were generally perceived to be unhelpful and were not frequently consulted for issues related to work. In fact, almost half of the respondents never use Twitter for work and only a fifth use Facebook daily for work. The websites of industry associations, companies and NGOs tend to be visited at least once a week by around 40 percent of respondents.

Other key findings of the survey include:
• The least transparent lobbyists are journalists (41 percent) and law firms (38 percent)
• The majority (56 percent) of respondents across Europe think that lobbying is not sufficiently regulated in their country
• One in four respondents said that there is still a significant problem with ‘corporate’ lobbyists offering what are perceived to be unethical inducements
• Social media (47 percent) and traditional media, including media websites (both 26 percent), appear to be seen as not particularly helpful
• Policy-makers often consult company websites (43 percent) using them daily or at least once a week, industry association websites (41 percent), NGO websites (37 percent) and Wikipedia (38 percent)
• Corporate lobbyists in the energy (68 percent) and healthcare (60 percent) sectors were seen to be the most effective and the most effective NGO lobbyists were seen to be working in the environment (52 percent) and human rights (49 percent) fields.
• Both corporate and NGO lobbyists were seen to be least effective in the retail (13 percent) and consumer goods (15 percent) areas.
• 48 percent of respondents thought that NGOs are not being sufficiently transparent about the interest they represent and 56 percent also thought NGOs based their position on emotion rather than facts.