Pressure Group: Meaning, Types And Functions

Table Of Contents
1. Meaning Of Pressure Group
2. Types Of Pressure Groups
3. Functions Of Pressure Groups
Meaning Of Pressure Group
A pressure group is an organized association of people seeking to influence government policies on specific issues in order to promote the interest of their members.
A pressure group can also mean a body of individuals, which is voluntarily organized to influence government policy without officially entering elections contests. A pressure group is the same thing as interest group. It is an independent association (formal or informal), which thrives best in democratic societies to provide or promote some specific objectives to protect its members against the possible exploitation from outside bodies, including government or management.
Types Of Pressure Groups
There are numerous types of pressure groups in modern political societies. Leeds (1975) identified ten types of pressure groups, as follows:
1. Interest Groups
2. Cause Groups
3. Hybrid Group
4. Labour Group
5. Agricultural Group
6. Religious/Evangelical Group
7. Ethnic/Racial Group
8. Other Miscellaneous Groups
1. Interest Groups
Exists primarily for the benefit of their members. Their main objective is to promote members interest, which may be regional, occupational, racial, religious, etc.
2. Cause Groups
This is a type of pressure group that generally champion the interest and the rights of the under privileged. The group seeks to promote some cause that are not of direct benefit to their members. Examples of such groups include: Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Oxford Association for Farming Relief that gives food and clothing to the less privileged, the National Democratic Coalition, Unlike interest groups, they demand more of sacrifice from its members instead of providing direct benefits to them.
3. Hybrid Groups
This type of group was originally established as interest group, but later, began to promote a cause. Hybrid groups are mixtures of interest and cause groups. For example, the Nigerian Road Safety Society that promotes the safety of their members as well as prevention of accidents on the roads.
4. Labour Groups
A labour group is an occupational interest group. It includes all types of trade Unions. Labour groups have become in modern industrial age one of the most powerful pressure groups simply because almost everyone belongs to the Union. Examples include: Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), British Trade Union Congress, Academic Staff Union Of Polytechnics (ASUP), etc.
5. Agricultural Groups
The various associations of farmers belong to this group. Agricultural groups are also involved in activities to pressure the government over specific agricultural policies, like young farmers club and some farming cooperative societies.
6. Professional Groups
These are specialized forms of interest groups whose pressure campaigns also serv the interest of non-members in the larger society. Examples are the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Computer Professionals of Nigeria (CPN), Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), Nigerian Bar Association, etc.
7. Business Groups
This include: the Nigerian Chamber of Commerce and the State Chambers of Commerce, the various manufacturers associations etc.
8. Religious Or Evangelical Groups
Religious or Evangelical groups include the various religious organizations like the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), NIFES, Scripture Union, Moslem Students Association of Nigeria, Catholic Women Organization (CWO) etc. These groups provide the spiritual needs of their members. For the past two decades there has been proliferation of churches and religious groups.
9. Anomic Group
These are spontaneous, unorganized mob groups which are interested in immediate achievement of goals. They use violence, arson, demonstration, strikes etc. For example, students riot groups, riots against hike in pump price of fuel etc.
10. Ethnic Or Racial Groups
These types of groups include: the different cultural groups which exited in Nigeria during the colonial and post colonial era. They promote ethnic or racial interests. Examples include Ibo Union now Ohaneze ndi Igbo, Egbeoma Oduduwa, Afenifere, the Arewa Consultative Forum, Umuada Igbo Nigeria etc.
11. Socio-Cultural Groups
These includes both the social and cultural groups pursuing the various social-cultural interests of their members.
Functions Of Pressure Groups
Pressure groups perform important roles and functions which include:
1. To defend and protect the interest of their members.
2. To provide technical or specialized information to guide the government towards the implementation of public policies especially in a democratic setting.
3. To serve as a middle man or link between the members and the government.
4. To enlighten and sensitize the public on major issues through discussions, seminars, etc
5. To promote economic stability through their efforts to realize and promote the specific economic interest of their members.
Strategies Used By Pressure Groups To Achieve Their Demands And Objectives Include:
1. Issuing ultimatum
2. Strike
3. Demonstration
4. Propaganda
5. Lobbying
6. Organizing seminars to enlighten government and the public on their demands
7. Influencing members of the legislature
8. Rioting
9. Protest Letters
Barriers Against The Success Of Pressure Groups In Pursuit Of Their Demands
1. Poor organization
2. Illiteracy
3. Weak Leadership
4. Political Instability
5. Lack of fund
6. The government in power
7. Corruption
Similarities Between Political Parties And Pressure Groups
1. Both political parties and pressure groups help to protect the interest of their members against other groups or institutions, including the government.
2. Political parties, just like pressure groups play a vital role in making the citizen’s voice or public opinion heard in government.
3. Pressure groups may also act like political parties when they select and endorse candidates for elections.
4. Political parties and pressure groups are similar by organizational structure, role, membership and legislative programme.
Distinctions Between Political Parties And Pressure Groups
1. While the range of activities and programmes of political parties are broad, that of the pressure groups are narrow concerntration on one or few issues.
2. Every political party must directly present itself to the general public to test its acceptance or rejection whereas pressure groups do not have to meet this test of acceptance or rejection by the general public.
3. Unlike the political parties, the pressure group is not so keen on obtaining control of the government, filling public offices and determining broad national policies.
4. Membership of political parties is open to any interested person while membership of the pressure groups is restricted only to their members.
5. Unlike the pressure groups political parties have strong ideology to pursue and defend.
6. While political parties seek to control the power of government, the pressure groups only seek to influence the decisions of the government.