Groups influence social policy

Another method by which interest groups influence social policy is the employment of lobbyists to influence both legislators and members of the federal bureaucracy involved in enforcement. (Stein, 2001) Lobbyists act as “representatives” of various interests. They meet with policy makers and policy enforcers to communicate the positions on various issues of interest groups. (Stein, 2001) The nature of the communication is generally that of a thinly veiled coercion or bribe.

(Stein, 2001) Lobbyists make politicians aware of what types of voting patters would make interest groups inclined to be a “friend” of a candidate. (Stein, 2001) In this context, being a “friend” means offering financial support in reelection efforts. (Stein, 2001) The flip side of the situation is the implication that failure to follow a given legislation policy would causer an interest group to throw their support to an opposition candidate. (Stein, 2001) Lobbyists are typically members of law firms whose services are retained for the purpose of offering “legislative advice” to lawmakers.

(Stein, 2001) Since many lobbyist are lawyers, they often offer to aid in the drafting of favorable legislation, sometimes to the point of producing completely written laws on behalf of interest groups that the candidate can take and pass as his own idea. (Stein, 2001) Lobbyist can influence non-legislative policy makers by offering them post-public service jobs in lucrative areas in exchange for political consideration. (Stein, 2001) This tactic can be particularly effective in dealing with members of the bureaucracy responsible for enforcement of legislation.

Even if an unfavorable law passes into existence, it is possible to remove the damaging aspects of the law through enforcement policy that is often in the purview of non-elected officials(Stein, 2001). By exerting this influence and acting as a “mouthpiece” for interest groups, lobbyists are powerful tools for special interest groups. (Stein, 2001) In contrast to the considerable power of interest groups in changing social policy, the media as a group is not nearly as effective. (Franklin, 1999) In fact, it is a bit misleading to classify the media as a single entity with a specific social agenda.

(Franklin, 1999) Despite the popular impression of “media bias” (usually characterized as liberal), the fact of the matter is that the media as a large group does not have a specific social policy agenda, nor are the decision makers unanimous in their agreement with particular social policy initiatives. (Franklin, 1999) While it is true that editorial sections of news media typically employ a slant toward one or the other political extremes, the number and range of the various slants tend to cancel out any particular policy promotion.

(Franklin, 1999) Beyond circumstances where they are manipulated by agents of interest groups, the media is social policy neutral. (Franklin, 1999) At best, it provides a barometer of popular sentiment by promoting those viewpoints with which the most people agree in order to garner advertising revenue. The overweening goal of news media is not the promotion of particular social policy, but rather gaining viewership and readership. (Franklin, 1999) Without the singleness of purpose typified by interest groups, media outlets cannot independently affect social policy.

(Franklin, 1999) For all the accusations of “liberal bias” in the news media, repeated studies have shown that features carrying editorial slant average out to favor conservative viewpoints, and news items as a whole tend to be politically neutral. (Franklin, 1999) This is not to imply that “neutral” factual reporting cannot be tainted with bias, but rather that such bias is fairly evenly distributed between the parties. (Franklin, 1999) In short, a consumer has the choice of exposing themselves to media with “liberal bias”, “conservative bias” or neutrality. (Franklin, 1999)