What’s it: A pressure group is an organization with an agenda to lobby or persuade governments or businesses to change their behavior, policies, decisions, or take action on a particular issue. Some members may refer to their organizations as lobbying groups and interest groups to avoid negative associations and perceptions of their organization.
Pressure groups usually have relatively limited members. Meanwhile, in operation, they usually have a constitution to guide the whole group’s activities and the behavior of members.
What is the difference between a pressure group and a political party?
Straight to the point, I will mention what distinguishes political parties from pressure groups.
- Consists of individuals with a common political ideology and joins to form organized voluntary groups.
- Participate in elections to achieve their interests, both parliamentary and head of government elections.
- Nominate candidates and seek to win power over the government.
- Anyone can join a political party.
- Composed of like-minded people who seek to promote and campaign for a common cause, perhaps related to members or the public.
- Does not participate in elections but usually only supports political parties to achieve goals.
- Seek to advance their interests by influencing government decisions, for example, through lobbying.
- Not everyone can participate in the organization as a member.
What are examples of pressure groups?
There are many examples of pressure groups. They can be local or national organizations. Others may have a wider reach and operate internationally to voice their aspirations to governments or businesses in different countries. The following are examples of pressure groups:
- Amnesty International – focusing primarily on human rights issues, strongly opposes and campaigns to end human rights abuses.
- Greenpeace – focusing on environmental issues and campaigns for environmental protection and sustainability by voicing climate change, biodiversity, and renewable energy.
- Fairtrade Foundation – aiming to promote justice for farmers and workers in developing countries by voicing changes to the way trade works, such as through fairer trade deals, better prices, and decent working conditions.
What are the types of pressure groups?
Types of pressure groups can be classified into several categories depending on what variables we group them. For example, we may categorize them as professional groups, economic groups, and social groups based on the orientation of their activities. Or, in other cases, we can divide them into several categories based on their operation area, for example: local vs. international.
- Professional groups – campaigning for problems faced by certain professions can be medical groups, teachers, etc.
- Economic groups – aiming to voice the protection of the economic interests of its members by influencing government and business policies.
- Social groups – paying attention to social issues such as human rights and influencing government policies or decisions.
Why are pressure groups important?
Several reasons explain why pressure groups are important stakeholders for a business. On the positive side, they provide information and constructive criticism for government and business. It makes governments and businesses more responsive to society and the environment. They also voice the views of minority groups or on social and environmental issues, which governments and businesses may not pay much attention to.
But, on the negative side, pressure groups can represent a strong minority power in society to support their plan, which can be detrimental to the majority of society. Then, they can also use some direct actions such as trade unions and demonstrations to pressure the government and business, thereby disrupting community or business activities.
What is the function of pressure groups?
Although they do not seek power and participate directly in elections, the role and function of pressure groups cannot be underestimated. Here are some of them:
- Increasing attention to issues such as social and environmental by voicing them and trying to get governments and businesses to change their policies.
- Helping to educate citizens, especially members, about government policies and programs related to the issues they raise, such as human rights.
- Improving political education and citizen awareness through pressure group activities, encouraging them to develop constructive criticism.
- Balancing information, promoting sustainable economic development, and stable governance by raising alarms on government economic, social and educational policies.
How do pressure groups work?
The pressure group targets three areas to drive policy or regulatory change:
- Government policies and regulations related to the issues they raise.
- Business policies and practices, for example, are related to how companies balance profit goals with two other aspects: people and planet (triple bottom line).
- Changing consumer behavior and habits, for example, by encouraging them to buy environmentally friendly products.
How do pressure groups achieve their agenda? Several ways do this, including:
Media coverage encourages publicity and campaigns for voiced issues. For example, through press releases, pressure groups provide details about unwanted company activities or government policies.
Media coverage can also be done indirectly. I mean, they may carry out certain activities such as demonstrations and boycotts to attract major media outlets to report on it.
Some organizations may spend money on their own advertising campaigns. And it depends on the financial resources owned by each.
Then, apart from being targeted directly at the government or business, campaigns can also be directed indirectly, for example, to influence consumer behavior.
An example is to encourage them to stop buying products from the criticized company. It can affect its sales and profits, ultimately forcing it to change its policies and business practices, following those voiced by pressure groups.
Pressure groups may approach certain political parties or politicians, usually those in the opposition, to express their aspirations and push for the policy or regulatory changes.
The effectiveness of lobbying also depends on how significant the voices of those political parties and politicians are in government. In addition, if the campaign successfully degrades the government’s image, lobbying strengthens the opportunity to push for change.
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