Meaning, Types and Functions of Pressure Group


Meaning, Types and Functions of Pressure Group

Pressure groups are very important in the contemporary state system because they give meaning to the democratic process as important institutional components of liberal democracy.

Thus, this article will examine the meaning and types of pressure groups. Involved in this analysis is the explanation of the primary functions of pressure groups as instruments of political interaction and participation.


Meaning of Pressure Groups

Pressure groups are informal political institutions which seek to influence decision-making. They neither stand for elective positions nor aim to capture political to form a government.

They differ from parties because they are not entirely political even though they are organizations which are to a certain degree concerned with politics.

Put differently, although they share some characteristics with political parties, pressure groups are not aiming to exercise political power directly. They are agencies of representation and participation as well as mechanisms for the expression of interest and opinion.

They facilitate popular involvement in politics. Some of the active pressure groups in Nigeria include: the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) among others.

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Types of Pressure Groups

There are two types of pressure groups:

(1) Sectional Pressure Groups

(2) Promotional Pressure Groups

Sectional lobby groups include self-interest groups such as trade unions; business and farming associations; churches; ethnic associations; pensioner groups; and returned service personnel.

On the other hand, promotional lobby groups promote particular causes, beliefs or values such as: conservation; women’s issues; Aboriginal; civil; or moral rights.


Functions of Pressure Groups

Pressure groups are groups of like-minded people who seek to influence the government on a particular issue.

The primary functions of pressure groups include:

1) Pressure groups try to make the government more attentive to the needs of the people. This is because as groups with many members sometimes nationally spread, they command more respect than individuals who may be fighting for similar causes.

2) Pressure groups provide specialized and expert information to the government on their interests and explain government policies to their members and the general public. Thus, they are an important link between the government and the people.

3) They help to educate their members and the whole society on their fundamental human and political rights, and some government policies.

4) The political education and consciousness of citizens are promoted through the activities of pressure groups.

5) They promote the economic stability of the country through their useful advice to the government on economic policies. An example is the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

6) They promote certain general welfare services.

7) They promote and protect the interest of their members. 

For example, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) got a special salary scale approved for its members.

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Importance of Pressure Groups

Active and well-oriented pressure groups are an asset in a democratic society because they influence government policy in the right circumstances.

In an ideal political setting, pressure groups are important for the following reason:

1) They promote discussion and debate and mobilize public opinion on key issues

2) They perform a role in educating citizens about specific issues

3) Pressure groups can enhance democratic participation, pluralism and diversity

4) They provide an important access point for those seeking redress of grievance

5) They represent minorities who cannot represent themselves

6) Pressure groups are an important and valuable source of specialist information/ expertise for an overloaded legislature and civil service

7) They act as a check and balance to the power of executive government


Strategies Used by Pressure Groups to achieve their Objectives

Pressure groups may use a variety of methods to pursue their requirements.

These include:

(i) Lobbying state members and the Parliament via petitions, letters and deputations.

(ii) Consulting with ministers or senior public servants.

(iii) Hiring professional lobbyists.

(iv) Taking legal action through injunctions or appeals to higher courts.

(v) Campaigning for, or opposing, certain candidates at elections.

(vi) Demonstrating outside Parliament and government offices or marching in the streets.

(vii) Using the industrial muscle of strikes for political purposes.


Conclusion on Meaning, Types and Functions of Pressure Group

Pressure groups are the principal pillars of any democratic system. They provide an opportunity for citizens to make political decisions either by influencing government policies or voting for the competing candidates in elections.

By so doing, they not only serve as intermediaries between the government and civil society but also offer citizens a choice in governance. All these are central to the wider consolidation of democracy.

In this article, we have examined the meaning, types and functions of Pressure group as instruments of political interaction.

Involved this analysis is the functions of pressure groups and strategies they deploy in achieving their objectives.

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