Characteristics and Features of Pressure Groups (with Definition)
Pressure groups are organised groups, which influence government decisions socially or economically, without necessarily entering into election activities for the control of government. In doing this, they influence the legislature, the executive and other officials of government to achieve their immediate aims. However, some have argued that pressure groups are part of the political process and that they attempt to reinforce or change the direction of government policy, but do not wish, as it were, to be in government.
Features of Pressure Groups
Pressure groups have the following characteristics.
Pressure groups are important grous in the political system and a major objectives of the group is to influence the government, and not to form the government.
They exist in every society, but as a society becomes more complex and specialised, more pressure groups tend to be formed to influence what the government and legislature are doing. It’s clearly that an increase in the number of people of pensionable age may encourage an increase in associations concerned with the interests of old people.
Pressure groups usually have few or limited objectives. For example, the objective of a pressure group may be to educate teenagers on the dangers of pre-marital sex
Pressure groups vary in size, strength, and the amount of influence they can exert. A pressure group maybe a small group of one or more people or a large association, which has hundreds of members.
A pressure group may support candidates nominated for election by political parties who are sympathetic to their cause but they do not contest or nominate candidates for election. Even if a candidate sponsored by a pressure group is defeated in an election, the group may not accept defeat in good faith as it still puts pressure on the successful candidates or other officials of government to support its cause.
Pressure groups usually put a lot of pressure on legislators, and there is an implied to it that if a legislator failed to vote in accordance with the wishes of the association, he will lose the support of its members when he seeks re-nomination or re-election in future.
In the enforcement of laws, pressure groups always wants the executive to act in a manner that favours the group. For example, if a professional association secures the enactment of a law limiting the admission of persons to practice the profession, it will rationalize that nobody can better administer the law better than those who are already members.
Pressure group may use any method whether legitimate or non-legitimate to achieve its objectives. In most countries, strike appears to be the most preferred option as its results are immediately visible.
All the organs of government are subject to the influence of pressure groups.
Pressure groups sometimes disguise there real demands by selling domains to the public.
Pressure groups may metamorphose into a political party.
Governments usually view pressure group activities with suspicious. This partly explains why trade unions are often viewed with more suspicion than employers associations. It may be because the governing elites and business elites have the same class orientation, which is at variance with that of the workers.
Pressure groups tend to be more politically powerful when they do exert their full influence.
Pressure groups are an important part of the political process in liberal democratic states but irrelevant and socialist states. In the latter, they are part of the state apparatus engaged for the propagation of government policies. They exists in developing countries but they are generally not effective. This is basically because, non-associational interest such as kinship, lineage, ethnicity, religion and region are more important in social life than associational interest of occupation, education and other non ascriptive characteristics.