By Adriana Bunea, Reto Wüest, Sergiu Lipcean

Public consultations strengthen the informational advantage and policy legitimacy of bureaucracies by allowing them to collect and aggregate information on stakeholder preferences. How well consultations perform this function depends on the dimensional structure and complexity of the policy spaces describing them. Building on the research on spatial models of politics, we derive a set of expectations about the dimensional structure and policy content of consultation policy spaces. We assess our argument empirically by analysing 42 consultations organised by the European Commission via online surveys across all policy areas. Using Specific Multiple Correspondence Analysis (SMCA) we find that more than 70% of the analysed consultations present low-dimensional policy spaces characterised by one or two main dimensions, although some also display a three-dimensional space. The substantive content of policy dimensions is consultation-specific and varies greatly across events. Most dimensions capture stakeholder alignments with respect to policy instruments, and only a few with respect to the orientation of the policy regime. The unveiled consultation policy spaces reflect a regulatory model of stakeholder engagement in policymaking. Our findings underscore the challenges and opportunities of information provision, preference aggregation and the identification of stable majority equilibria in the context of public consultations and bureaucratic policymaking.



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