A second way by which interest groups influence social policy is the use of money and influence to support candidates who agree with their social agenda. One case in point is the influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA) on federal elections. (Kenny, McBurnett & Bordua, D. , 2006) According to a 2006 study, the NRA was able to sway the voting percentages 3% for every 10,000 members in a given area. (Kenny, McBurnett & Bordua, D., 2006)
The characteristics that allow this particular group to have specific and tangible effects on election results, where most research indicates that such influence is negligible are the single-issue, high organization, and effective use of media through advertising. (Kenny, McBurnett & Bordua, D. , 2006) Other social interest groups have a broader range of issues. There are a large number of religiously-based groups that seek to affect social policy.
Their efforts include initiatives banning the use of embryonic stem cells, limiting abortion rights, increasing criminal penalties for crimes such as drug use, prostitution and gambling, and allowing religious representations in public for a, such as schools and courthouses. It is clear that these groups influence public social policy, not by the size of their membership, but by the effectiveness of their organization and finances.
A recent example of this phenomenon was the passage in a number of states of laws banning same-sex marriage. In the state of Oregon, one interest group was responsible for a majority of ballot initiatives and anti-homosexuality legislation in the state. (Witt & McCorkle, 1997) This group, called the Oregon Citizen’s Alliance (OCA) is a religious interest group that claims to have “no specific interest” in gay rights issues, but acknowledges that its membership would like homosexuals to “go away”.
(Witt & McCorkle, 1997) The OCA was responsible for the near-passage of two state-wide initiatives banning gay marriage and civil unions. (Witt & McCorkle, 1997) They were nearly successful in these endeavors despite being opposed by unified, high-profile individuals and organizations with more money and the preponderance of endorsements, expert data, and most of the media support. (Witt & McCorkle, 1997) The first of the OCA’s initiatives occurred in 1991.
(Witt & McCorkle, 1997) Called Measure Nine, this provision was a referendum to change Oregon’s constitution to define homosexuality as “abnormal, wrong, unnatural and perverse. ” (Witt & McCorkle, 1997) The measure included provisions that would have prohibited state agencies from adopting policies friendly to homosexuals, and extending civil rights provisions to include them. (Witt & McCorkle, 1997) Despite the disadvantages noted above, the measure failed by only seven percent, and passed in several individual counties(Witt & McCorkle, 1997) .
After research suggested that a “softer” version of the measure would be more likely to pass, the OCA offered a different amendment, called Measure 13, which placed similar limitations on the advancement of gay rights in the state, but left out the moralistic, judgmental language directed at the practice. (Witt & McCorkle, 1997) This second measure failed by only three percent as it failed in the city of Portland by 70,000 votes, but passed in the rest of the state by 30,000 votes. (Witt & McCorkle, 1997) In states such as Texas, Oklahoma and Alabama, similar efforts have met with success among voters. (Witt & McCorkle, 1997)