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Political Communication & interest groups

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Presentation on theme: "Political Communication & interest groups"— Presentation transcript:

1 Political Communication & interest groups
David Last

2 An Aside on Managing Regionalism
Interest Groups An Aside on Managing Regionalism How does Canada manage the political tensions inherent in regionalism? Interstate and intrastate mechanisms Interstate – between provinces and the federal government Intrastate – within the federal government Segue to interest groups: are regional interests a particular example of interest groups? Are the mechanisms for managing regional interests applicable to other types of interests in Canadian politics?

3 Interstate ------------ Intrastate
Interest Groups Interstate Intrastate Between Ottawa and the Provinces First Minister’s Conferences Inter-governmental Affairs (central agency) Technical discussions between departments Public diplomacy Within the federal government Regional representation in Cabinet Representation by population Senate Seats Regional agencies (e.g. ACOA) Decentralization of federal services

4 Outline: Interest Groups
Political communication Montpetit: useful or harmful? What are interest groups? Pluralist perspective Almond’s classification: Anomic, non-associational, associational, institutional Collective action and the free rider problem Patterns of interest groups in Canada and the US How to win friends and influence governments Lobbying and lobbyists How social movements differ from interest groups

5 What is political communication?
Interest Groups What is political communication?

6 Political Communication
Interest Groups Political Communication Political communication is communication about political subjects or communication for political purposes The budget was political communication from the executive to legislative, but also to public, civil society Student protests in Montreal about tuition hikes are political communication through public space Protesters against cuts are communicating in political space This communication is enabled by physical means and protected by law and custom (Charter, access) We can map this communication in a model of the political system

7 Political Communication
Interest Groups Political Communication Civil Society E L A J Public Space Political infrastructure

8 What are Interest Groups?
Montpetit (2009) “Organizations created to facilitate collective action by groups with shared interests, to make a contribution to governance without seeking public office” Mintz et al (2009, 253) “A group of people who have joined together to pursue common interests and whose political activity is generally focused on trying to influence the making and implementation of the laws and policies of a political community.” Werner and Wilson in Caramani (2009, 349) “Interest groups are membership organizations and advocacy groups that make policy-related appeals to the government.”

9 Pluralist Perspective
Interest Groups Pluralist Perspective Pluralist theory: “An approach to politics that assumes that society is composed of individuals who join groups to influence political outcomes. Politics is seen as the competition among groups for preferred policies. It assumes that all citizens can form groups and that no group has a permanent advantage in society.” (Brodie et al, 2008, 389) Climate change protest, 2009

10 Almond’s Classification
Interest Groups Almond’s Classification Almond, G., Powell, B., Dalton, R. & Strom, K. (2007). Comparative politics today, 9e. NY: Pearson Longman. Montpetit has relabeled some classic distinctions by Almond et al Anomic interest groups – unstructured (e.g. shoppers) Non-Associational interest groups – unjoined (e.g. women) Associational interest groups – joined (e.g. unions) Institutional interest groups – embedded (e.g. parties)

11 Visualizing Almond’s Classification
Interest Groups Visualizing Almond’s Classification Institutional Non-associational Political Parties Anomic Associational

12 Interest groups and political culture
The forms and boundaries of interest groups are strongly influenced by political culture: “The values, attitudes, and beliefs that are widely held within a political community.”(Mintz et al, 2009, 507), but think also about habitus – the way people are used to behaving, particularly at the outer ring of anomic interest groups, where there is less constraining structure. A burlesque protest in Ukraine against sexual harassment, 2011

13 Getting closer to power…
Interest Groups Getting closer to power… Associational and institutional interest groups have more instruments and more opportunity to influence the centres of power than do non-associational and anomic interest groups, although the latter can have a big impact (think of the “soft revolutions” that brought down the Communist regimes in E. Europe). Political parties (institutionalized) court the votes of large groups (associational or institutional interest groups).

14 Anomic Interest Groups
Lack formal organization No obvious leaders Temporary, form briefly in response to circumstances Loose, fluid, membership Behaviour strongly influenced by political culture Examples: Spontaneous riot over railway closure Welcome crowd at London Airport for Olympic medallists

15 Non-Associational Interest Groups
Lack formal structure Are defined mainly by common characteristics They tend to be temporary, loose organizations, formed for specific short-term goals Examples: commuters’ group arguing for change to a bus route vegetarian cadets lobbying for more menu choice

16 Associational Interest Groups
the most common form of interest group organized and structured to achieve political goals may also exist for other purposes Examples: NRA, BCNI, CNIB

17 Institutional Interest Groups
Well-structured and enduring organizations with strong ties to major political structures Stable membership and clear objectives Routinely implicated in the policy-making process Examples Assembly of First Nations Canadian Council of Chief Executives Thomas D’Aquino with Mexican President Calderon at Montebello Summit, 2007

18 Spot that interest group?
Interest Groups Spot that interest group? What sort of interest group is each of the following? Royal Canadian Legion CARP - Ontario Environmental Industry Association Canadian Cancer Society Toronto Maple Leafs supporters

19 Collective Action Theory
Interest Groups Collective Action Theory Mancur Olson (1965), The Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of Groups Cambridge, MA: Harvard University press. The paradox of collective action is that people participate in politics to make collective decisions about the allocation of goods and bads to large groups, But once those decisions are made, everyone benefits or pays whether they participated or not, so why should anyone participate?

20 Interest Groups Free Rider Problem Why engage in costly collective action, when someone else will do it for you, and you can reap the benefits when they succeed, i.e. why not be a ‘free rider’? A “public good” is one that, once provided, must be provided for all. Examples are clean air, national defence, public health. Prior to Olson, the accepted wisdom was that the tyranny of the majority was the main problem for democracies – fear of the mob. His work in the 1960s demonstrated that apathy of the mob permitted tyranny by elites, despite democratic mechanisms and rhetoric. selective incentives were necessary to support democratic engagement. In practice, these have often taken the form of public subsidy for interest groups Federal government is reviewing charitable status of politically engaged groups

21 Patterns of Interest Groups
What sort of interest groups? Profit sector is largely business interest groups, makes up more than a third in the US. It is “self-interest” in Mintz et al’s scheme. Citizen and non-profit groups can both be labelled “public interest” although in the broadest sense, since many have very specific and limited goals. Which is the most concentrated policy domain, and what sort of organization dominates it? Which is the least concentrated policy domain? Why do you think this is the case? What sort of organizations do you think are most engaged in defence policy, and how would you investigate this?

22 Interest Groups in the US

23 Interest Groups in Canada
1981 1990 2000 Women’s Groups n/a 7 10 Environmental 5 8 Labour unions 11 12 13 Professional 16 Voluntary (health, welfare, social) 17 24 Total percent 34 39 Source: World Value Surveys , in Young and Everitt, 2004, 28. (from Perlin, 2001)

24 How to Win Friends and Influence Government 1/2
Interest Groups How to Win Friends and Influence Government 1/2 Get organized, get big but stay cohesive Have a big membership list Be distributed across key ridings Demonstrate your reach and influence Avoid internal dissension Mobilize your members Keep your membership engaged Form coalitions with like-minded groups Be rich Money helps keep the organization going and get your message out Professionals can be hired (lobbyists, consultants, surveys, advertising) Make friends in high places Know the influential people Back door entry to policy circles Sometimes it pays to be invisible, so you don’t embarrass your political friends

25 How to Win Friends and Influence Government 2/2
Interest Groups How to Win Friends and Influence Government 2/2 Be known as the experts If the public trusts you, the government will be more likely to quote you Be conventional, go with the flow You will have more influence if your ideas conform to the ideology of the party in power; if they don’t, dress them up Negative advertising: credible threats about consequences Bad news travel well in mass media – use it to make it look like you have the solution Eliminate the competition You don’t want competing lobby groups on the same subject. If possible, compromise and merge or form coalitions (e.g. WWF and Greenpeace)

26 Lobbying and Lobbyists
Interest Groups Lobbying and Lobbyists In Canada, the Lobbyists Registration Act requires lobbyists to register if they take payment from a client to communicate with government officials, develop legislative proposals, or policies, seek to influence the award of government contracts, or arrange meetings. Federal legislation on campaign contributions and funding of political parties reduced the influence of business and union donations. 2010 US Supreme Court ruled against restrictions on corporate finance of political messages , parties, or campaigns, in any part of the electoral cycle (5:4 split decision). Result is likely that US political scene will be increasingly dominated by big money; Canada may be stuck ‘harmonizing’ with the results, or may be able to maintain independent regulatory regime.

27 A routine part of politics…
Interest Groups A routine part of politics… (A Hill Times publication) Public Sector Union wait-listed for budget lock-up after anti-cuts campaign Industry-backed gambling private members bill easily passes House Heavy lobbying continues on $33B ship-building contracts Budget turns MPs, Labour’s foucs away from contriversial union finance bill Attending budget lockup gives lobby groups an advantage Glencore hires two firms to lobby for Viterra takeover

28 Interest Groups Are lobbyists harmful?

29 Montpetit: Useful or Harmful?
Interest Groups Montpetit: Useful or Harmful? They don’t just hijack policy; they can contribute to the public good “Organizations created to facilitate collective action by groups with shared interests, to make a contribution to governance without seeking public office” Peak associations = groups of groups, internalize debate, formal rules [institutional interest groups] Unitary groups = groups of individuals [associational] Contributions: advocating, lobbying, policy-making, self-regulating Utility: groups are most useful when uncertainty is high and there is no clear sanction (e.g. climate change)

30 Interest Groups Social Movements Mintz et al (2009, 509) “A network of groups and individuals that seeks major social and political changes, particularly by acting outside of established political institutions.” Kriesi in Caramani, (2009, 394) “social movements are engaged in conflicts with some opponents”

31 Elements of a Social Movement
Interest Groups Elements of a Social Movement There are three main elements to a social movement: A group of people in conflict with an opponent A collective identity built on common beliefs and goals A repertory of collective actions Social movements are not organizations: “The boundaries of social movements are inherently disputed, unstable, and ultimately dependent on mutual recognition by the members of the group involved.” (Kriesi in Caramani, 2009, 394)

32 Occupy Bay Street The promise of peaceful mass-mobilization
Interest Groups Occupy Bay Street The promise of peaceful mass-mobilization Protesters clash -

33 Summary What are interest groups? Pluralist Perspective
Almond’s classification: Anomic, non-associational, associational, institutional Collective Action and the Free Rider Problem Patterns of interest groups in Canada and the US How to win friends and influence government Lobbying and Lobbyists What are social movements?

34 Questions for Discussion
Interest Groups Questions for Discussion Who speaks for you? Why them? What interest groups form spontaneously around you? What determines whether these groups are short-lived or durable? How do they become more formal and organized? What happens to the connection between constituents and organizations as interest groups become move towards the institutional end of the spectrum? How do interest groups and social movements differ? How do they interact with other political institutions?


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