Analyse why some pressure groups are more successful in achieving their aims and objectives than others. Pressure groups are organised groups of people who share a common interest that they wish to protect or a common aim that they wish to promote. They seek to influence public policy by gaining access to decision makers who have power. There are two main types of pressure groups; Interest Group and Cause Group – an interest group aims to protect the interests of its members whilst a Cause group promotes issues and policies that do not exclusively benefit the group’s members. Pressure groups perform several different function within the USA, these include; representation, participation, scrutiny and agenda building. Throughout this essay, I will analyse why some groups achieve their aims whilst acknowledging that the majority fail to do so. One of the determining factors as to why some pressure groups are more successful in achieving their aims and objectives than others is which party (Republican or Democrat) controls their aims.
This is significant as a pressure groups whose aims are similar to the policies of the controlling party are more likely to achieve their aims; for example, in 2013, The National Rifle Association achieved its aim of blocking ‘background checks on people wishing to purchase firearms’ as the Republican controlled senate also objected to this new legislation as The Republicans ‘acknowledge, support and defend the God-given right of self defense’. Likewise, The Tea Party was unsuccessful in achieving its aims of repealing Obamacare as despite the House of Representatives repealing the law over 50 times, the Democrat President, Barack Obama, is able to veto the law. Therefore, it is clear that a groups success in achieving its aims largely depends on whether the controlling party supports or objects their aims. A further factor which determines why some pressure groups are more successful in achieving their aims is the pressure group’s wealth. A wealthier pressure group is more likely to achieve their aims as they can afford to spend more on electioneering; donating to candidates and establishing Political Action Committees.
For example, the wealthy group ‘National Automobile Dealers Association’ enjoyed success due to its wealth. It was able to hire lobbyist to defeat ‘The Lemon Law’ which would have required salesman selling second hand cars to inform customers of a problem, or a potential problem the vehicle may have. Through donations, The NADA was able to influence representatives thus ensuring they achieved their aims. 90% of representatives who received $4,000 or more from NADA voted against the law, whilst 34% of representatives who didn’t receive donations from NADA voted in favour of the measure – it is clear that money buys access, thus votes. Furthermore, a pressure group’s ability to create an ‘iron triangle’ often determines whether it will be successful in achieving its aims or not. An ‘iron triangle’ is the term used which denotes a three-sided, mutually supportive and stable relationship between the congressional committees (which fund and oversee departments) a federal department or agency (which regulates them) and a special interest group (which benefits from them). The triangle dominates policy making in that area.
The triangle guarantees policy outcomes to the benefit of all three parties involved. An example of an iron triangle is the Defence Industry which is made up of the weapons manufacturer, the defence committee and Pentagon staff – all work together to ensure a mutually beneficial outcome. A further factor which determines whether a pressure group is successful in achieving its aims is the extent and success of their lobbying activities. The most successful pressure groups are able to hire professional lobbyists to make links with members of Congress in order to try and influence their voting committees where the details of legislation are worked out. Particularly important is a group’ ability to exploit the ‘revolving door’. A high proportion of professional lobbyists are former members of Congress, they exploit their knowledge of and contacts within Congress or the executive branch of government in order to further interests of their pressure groups clients.
An example of a pressure group hiring benefitting from the revolving door syndrome is ‘Motion Picture Association of America’ who employs Chris Dodd, former Democrat senator as a lobbyist. A factor which affects why some pressure groups are more successful in achieving their aims is the size of its membership. A group with mass members often enjoy more success than a smaller group as it legitimises what they are lobbying and campaigning for as it is clear they’re representative of a range of people. For example, the AARP having over 40 million members makes them a powerful pressure group that are campaigning on behalf of a vast sector of society. However, it has been called into question just why retired people join the AARP – is it because they feel passionately about the issues raised or is it for the benefits of being a member such as discounts on insurance and travel abroad?
A further reason as to why a group with mass membership such as the NRA are successful is because of representatives wanting to score well on the scorecards large groups produce close to elections. The NRA give representatives voting cues telling Members of Congress how to vote, at election time, The NRA produce scorecards for members ranging from A+ – a supporter of gun rights to an F – a true enemy of gun rights. Therefore, groups with mass membership are more likely to have success as they have a legitimate influence over Members. To conclude, there are a variety of reasons as to why some pressure groups are more successful in achieving their aims and objectives than others. Reasons include; whether group aims are similar to the beliefs of the party in power, the pressure group’s wealth and its ability to formulate an iron triangle.