POLITICAL PARTIES AND PRESSURE GROUPS IN PUBLIC OPINION FORMATION
Societies comprise complex groupings of individuals into social and economic
class structure and each class structure generates and nurtures specific
interests particular to it and at other times in variance with interests of
other groups in the same society. This constitutes the element of social
stratification and both politics and government are not only affected by it but
are made inevitable by it. Thus, the dynamics of class relations exists in
every society except only in those societies where the dominant group or class
structure has been successful in imposing its views and values on the other
subordinate groups (Parkins 1971: 84).
Political parties and pressure groups have a most crucial role to play in any
democracy. According to Anifowose and Enemuo (1999), not to have a properly
functioning party system and pressure groups in a supposedly democratic country
is worse than tea without sugar, it is like trying to pass brown water as tea.
There can be no meaningful democracy without a properly functioning party and
pressure groups process. It is obvious, therefore that parties and pressure
groups constitute the heart of democracy- the more vigorous and healthy they
are, the better assured is the health of the democratic process itself.
In this essay we will see the definition of political parties and pressure
groups and try to give the comparison between political parties and pressure
groups and how political parties and pressure groups are in public opinion
OF POLITICAL PARTIES
Political parties are one of the key and inevitable features of a liberal
democracy. Although individuals have in the past been successful in securing
candidacy, they are becoming less and less frequent in modern politics. It is
more efficient for like-minded individuals to come together and form
organisations that attempt to form a Government, instead of having hundreds of
disparate individuals all with different policies and all vying for power.
These organisations are the political parties. They can be defined as voluntary
organisations made up of members with broadly similar views that seek to form
Government through securing the election of its candidates. the fact that these
are voluntary organisations shows that it is not compulsory for citizens to
join a political party.
Appadorai (1982) opines that a political party is a more or less organised
group of citizens who act together as a political unit, have distinctive aims
and opinions on the leading political questions or controversies in the state,
and who act together as a political, seek to obtain of the government.
According to Oyediran (1998) political parties is an organisations that seek to
attract the support electorally, of the general public in a political system.
They play a direct and substantial role in political recruitment and are often
interested in the capture of political power at local, state or federal level
of government either alone or in coalition with others. It must be emphasized
that political parties that do not not seek to be parment are not likely to be
able to successfully seek to capture power.
DEFINITION OF PRESSURE GROUPS
The term pressure group is used interchangeably with such terms as interest
groups or organized interests. Ehrman (1972:468-488) defines pressure groups as
voluntary associations of individuals who band together for the defence of a
particular interest. Interest in this sense is a conscious desire to have a
public policy or the authoritative allocation of values, and to move in a
particular, general or specific direction.
Pressure groups can be defined as organisations whose members all share common
interests and goals, and they wish to influence Government to attain these
goals. Pressure groups can focus on a massive range of issues; anything of even
vague importance probably has a pressure group campaigning for it somewhere.
Besides political parties, there are other associations or groups that are
essential for an effective democratic political process. These are called
pressure groups or interest groups. Amucheazi (1986) states that by studying
the pressure groups in the society we are also analyzing the political culture
of the society. The groups do not operate in a vacuum but within a political
According to Obiajulu and Anthony (2004), a pressure group has been defined as
an organised aggregate which seeks to influence the context of governmental
decisions without attempting to place its members in formal governmental
capacities. Thus, the important aspects of pressure groups are firmly part of
the political process and attempts to reinforce or change the direction of
government policy, but do not wish, like political parties to become the
COMPARISON OF POLITICAL PARTIES AND PRESSURE GROUPS
Both political parties and pressure groups seek to influence Government, but it
is their methods, organisation and ultimate goals that set them apart.
Political parties put up candidates for election to the legislature, and by
doing so they seek to form a government (or if this is unrealistic, say for a
minor party, to influence the current government.). Pressure groups, on the
other hand, do not usually put up candidates for election, although this is not
always the case. For political parties, however, their main (and usually only)
aim is to get as many candidates elected as possible.
Parties and pressure groups also differ in terms of overall aim. Political
parties produce manifestos that cover broad policy areas, such as Health,
Education, and Defence, the idea being that citizens will vote for that party
because of what the reforms they want to implement to improve the country. Pressure
groups, however, usually have a single policy area that they focus on, like the
Environment, animal rights, or saving a local school from closure. They will
not usually create a manifesto, although general aims will be laid out in a
mission statement of sorts.
According to Obiajulu and Anthony (2004), there are some distinctions between
political parties and pressures. Fundamentally pressure groups are the
representation of homogeneous interest seeking to influence government decisions.
The interest group is strong and effective when it has a direct and specific
purpose. Political parties on the other hand, seek political office and
combines heterogenous groups. In fact it is one of their major themes to
reconcile the diverse forces within a political society.
Unlike pressure groups which are selfish and concerned with the welfare of
thier members only, political parties want to assume direct responsibility for
these policies by seeking to monopolise or share with other parties positions
of political power.
We talk of interest group articulation, that is to say that groups express
demands and attitudes in the political system and party aggregation, the means
by which these demands and attitudes are put into a wider and coherent programme
and presented to the electorate. Thus, political parties may be seen as
perverting selfish group interest from dominating and distorting the decision
Political parties perform integrative process of the entire state and do not
use any form of divisive tendencies in achieving their objectives. Wheareas the
political culture of societies determines the shape, intensity and direction of
pressure group activity. Pressure groups are said to be narrow minded,
parochial, selfish and insensitive to the cause of the majority whereas the
political parties must solicit, negotiate and obtain the mandate, cooperation,
solidarity and support of the majority to remain in government.
POLITICAL PARTIES IN
PUBLIC OPINION FORMATION
There are several ways in which political parties can influence the creation of
policy. The main method for political parties is to form the government in a
general election. Examlpe the executive in the UK is the Prime Minister and
their cabinet, and it is this group of people that proposes new laws and
instigates policies. So, if a political party can form the cabinet of the day,
then they can effectively propose any policy they wish.
However, it is not only the party that forms the government that can create or
influence policy. The official opposition party, can constantly scrutinise
government policy in debates in the House of senate in the case of Nigeria,
ensuring that the government remains accountable. Sometimes, the government of
the day actually utilises policies proposed by opposition parties. This gives
minority parties a chance to influence policy without being involved in
Political parties formulate and organize public opinion. They are called
mobilisers of opinion. Political parties not only make the people aware of
various public issues. Their purpose is to make the people politically
conscious to think about public problems. Political parties publish journals,
pamphlets, leaflets, manifestoes, posters etc. to mould the public opinion in
Political parties can also influence policy in a more indirect way, such as
allying with pressure groups to boycott or lobby certain companies or
organisations. This is usually the work of individual rather than parties.
PRESSURE GROUPS IN PUBLIC OPINION FORMATION
Pressure groups are able to influene both political parties and members of
parliament, this is because both groups require the votes of the public during
elections in order to remain in power.
Pressure or interest groups are organized groups, having common and social
interests,concerned with influencing decision making by putting pressure from
outside. Pressure groups have voluntary membership and are found in every
country. These pressure groups have a limited and narrow focused issue. They
have an informal, closed and unrecognized character. They, unlike political
parties, do not contest elections. They put pressure on the government through
various techniques so are called pressure groups. Despite this, they play an
important role in the politics of the country. The pressure groups contribute
to the political activities of the political parties and help in mobilizing the
Tactics for pressure groups vary wildly depending on the type of pressure group
and the cause they are campaigning for, although generally tactics can be
separated into direct and indirect action. As a form of direct action, pressure
groups can lobby the key policy-makers, These areas of policy creation are
known as pressure points, as they are places where pressure can be applied by
an interest group in order to influence policy.
views, interests and aspirations of the people constitute the core of the
democratic system. There are certain groups or associations that try to
influence the decision-making or policy formulation by the government in
accordance with their specific interests. Such groups are called pressure
groups. The government that represents the people carries on administration in
accordance with the public opinion expressed by the people. In fact, democracy
derives its authority from the people. It seeks people’s opinion on various
issues of common interest. Infact, no government whether it is democratic or
not, can afford to ignore the public opinion and pressure groups. Every
government respects the feelings of the public. It is always keen to know their
response to various issues that are directly or indirectly related to them. In
any political system, public opinion and pressure groups play a very
Pressure groups, like political parties, can also boycott certain companies and
organisations. This is often an incredibly powerful tactic, as if they can
generate enough support then the organisation will have no choice but to back
down. This happened in 1995, where Greenpeace and other pressure groups
organised a Europe-wide boycott of the oil company Shell because of their
handling of a disused oil platform.
In conclusion Political parties and pressure groups are dependent upon one
another. Interest groups find the parties an important method of gaining access
to those in public authority, and the parties need the support of groups to
elect and maintain themselves in power. The loose party structure and the
nature of the federal system foster a chain of continuous relationships between
the two. Interest groups participate in both nonpartisan and partisan primaries
and general elections through candidate endorsement, providing campaign funds,
and general campaign activity. Interest groups are particularly interested in
programs and seek to influence party platforms and may provide speech materials
for candidates. There is some attempt on the part of both to infiltrate each
other though rarely has an interest group been able to capture complete control
of a party organization. The overlapping memberships help to educate the
parties about the interests of the private groups and vice versa, and provide
some cross-fertilization of ideas as well as manpower assistance. Political
parties have a prime function of accommodating the demands of the private
interests into the larger public interests.