For securing their aims and goals, interest groups use peaceful persuasion as well as pressure techniques. When the interest groups, use pressure tactics for securing their interests these are called pressure groups. As such, all methods by which influence and pressure can be exerted upon the decision-makers are the methods of interest groups. Such techniques as strikes, demonstrations, passive resistance, work to rule, which are usually described as means of direct action, fall within their scope.
Interest groups are opportunistic and down to earth pragmatic in the selection of methods for serving their interests. Henry A. Turner observes, “Individual interest groups generally function in a pragmatic and opportunistic fashion, using any method or technique which they believe will serve their purpose effectively.
Undoubtedly, dictating most pressure group’s activity is the criterion: What action will produce the maximum desired result with the minimum expenditure of time and resources? Besides pressure techniques, pressure groups depend upon lobbying, propaganda, participation in electioneering, use of mass media, public meetings, peaceful processions, public protests, etc., for promoting, defending and securing their interests. Analysing the methods used by the Pressure Groups, Carr has observed, that an interest group can use three basic techniques for securing its purpose:
Firstly, it can try to place in public office persons most favourable towards the interests it seeks to promote. It can be termed as electioneering. Secondly, it can try to persuade public officers to adopt and enforce such policies as are considered most beneficial for its interest. Thirdly and finally, it can try to influence the formulation and expression of public opinion as a means for influencing the thinking and decisions and actions of the government. Since the democratic government is a government based on public opinion, the pressure groups rightly hope that by favourably influencing public opinion, the government policies and actions can be influenced and controlled.
How Pressure Groups Achieve Their Aims
There are various methods which pressure groups use when trying to achieve their aims. These include:
1. Strikes and Boycotts
Occupational pressure groups may employ strikes and boycotts to achieve their aims where other means fail. In trying to avoid the great loss that may arise from a long-term strike, the owners of an organisation may agree to what the pressure group demands. If the strike is directed at government, the government may negotiate with the pressure group in order to ensure industrial peace and political stability.
This involves representatives of pressure groups trying to persuade legislators to pass laws that are favourable to their members. It originated in the United States of America. Today, pressure groups try to influence every arm of government whose programmes could affect their functions.
3. Publicity campaigns
Pressure groups organise intensive campaigns through meetings, rallies, house to house campaigns, posters, handbills, stickers and conferences to attract public support and get their aims achieved.
4. Mass media
Pressure groups advertise and sponsor programmes on the radio, television and in newspapers to convince the citizenry to embrace their position as the most appropriate one for the whole society.
5. Letters and petitions
Pressure groups write letters of information or complaint to officials of the legislative or executive arm of the government to try to convince them of their viewpoint.
6. Electioneering campaigns
Pressure groups go out to campaign and vote for candidates who will be sympathetic to their cause. They on the other hand campaign against candidates they believe are not in support of their cause.
Pressure groups also use demonstrations which may be peaceful or violent. In peaceful demonstrations, they march, carrying placards stating their demands. If this fails, violence could be resorted to by pressure groups to achieve their objectives. Examples are tertiary students who abduct school administrators and burn vehicles.
If other means seem ineffective, pressure groups could employ (guerrilla) warfare means to achieve their goals. Examples are the Mau Mau struggle for independence in Kenya and the independence struggles in Mozambique and Angola.
Pressure groups influence politics in different ways. In summary, they:
- They carry out campaigns, hold protests and rallies in order to gain attention and support of the people. They also try to influence media to give attention to the issues raised by them.
- Pressure groups organise protest rallies or disrupt the government programmes.
- Professional lobbyists are employed by the business groups in order to influence the decision making body of the government.
- Pressure groups and movements play an important role in a democracy. They help in widening democracy. They force the government to recognise and implement laws benefiting wider interests of the society. When a sectional interest group influences the government to make policies in their favour, another group may bring counter pressure on the government to not make laws, the way in which the first group desires. This results in maintaining balance of power and accommodation of conflicting interests of the society.