Pressure groups vary in size, wealth and influence – they operate at all levels of government and seek to influence all three branches of government.
Pressure groups now have greater social and political importance in USA, due to:
· Size of country
· Federal govt
· Relative weakness of parties
TYPES OF PRESSURE GROUPS
Institutional pressure groups:
They want to represent other organisations and groups, business and trade groups. E.g. the American Business Conference, the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Automobile Dealers Association. – also includes trade unions and professional pressure groups (the American Medical Association).
Membership pressure groups:
They tend to represent individual people rather than organisations/groups – they may be single issue groups. E.g. NRA (National Rifle Association) or they may join an ideological group. E.g. the American Conservative Union or the ACLU (the American Civil Liberties Union).
They may also join membership groups that represent individuals with a common gender, ethnic, religious or social characteristic. E.g. NAACP (black civil rights)
FUNCTIONS OF PRESSURE GROUPS
They are a way in which ordinary people can have their views represented and their grievances heard – they are an important link between the people and the politicians – it’s a way for people to voice their opinions.
A Senator/Representative have many calls upon them (lots of constituents, their party, the administration) – however, people use pressure groups as a way to get their strongest held beliefs represented in all three branches of government at local/federal level – something a Senator/Representative can’t do.
Aid citizen participation
They increase the opportunity for people to participate in the decision-making process between elections
US elections happen frequently however election day is only one day, primaries two at the most – many citizens want more involvement – pressure groups provide this.
Enhance public education
They aim to educate the opinion of the public – warning of likely effects due to decisions or likely action from the government.
They want to influence the agenda of political parties, legislators and bureaucrats – giving their policy area priority.
They may also try and bring groups together within society – e.g. business groups, religious groups, state governments – this would be working together to achieve a common cause.
E.g. given by Berry and Wilcox – manufacturers and distributors of CDs, video cassettes and computer software working together to get governments to pay attention to the problem of piracy – this resulted in agenda building.
Scrutinising and holding government to account with the implementation of policy – they will ensure that promises are fulfilled, policies delivered, and regulations enforced.
E.g. after the passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Act 2002 – the Campaign Finance Institute commissioned a set of studies by scholars on the law’s impact on the funding of campaigns – such monitoring led pressure groups like the NRA and ACLU to sometimes bring cases to the state/federal courts – to monitor the effects of legislation.
REASONS FOR JOINING A…