Citizens, Political Communication, and Interest Groups: Environmental Organizations in Canada and the United States

By John C. Pierce; Mary Ann E. Steger et al. | Go to book overview
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Hypothesis 4

American environmental interest groups will be more likely than Canadian environmental interest groups to focus on policy-relevant information in their relationships with members and in their interactions with policymakers.

Organizations, just as individuals, must operate within the given characteristics of their own particular political culture. Interest groups in the American political culture are broadly seen as products of the individualistic character of their political environment; as such, they are more likely to focus on policy-relevant information as a means of achieving purposive political ends than their Canadian counterparts. Because Canadian interest groups grow out of a corporatist, particularist political culture in which long-established shared identities and goals have been established with policymakers, the task of policy-relevant information dissemination is less critical to group success in Canada than in the United States. Consequently, it seems reasonable to suspect that the development and dissemination of policy-relevant information would be less important to Canadian interest group activity than would strategies and tactics aimed at clarifying and identifying the preexisting shared goals and values. Chapters 5 and 6 explore the cross-national differences in the information activities of environmental interest groups.


CONCLUSION

Postindustrial society poses fundamental questions for modern democracies, especially when they are confronted with complex and difficult policy questions brought on by frequent scientific discovery and rapidly changing technology. How are citizens to reassure themselves that they influence the answers to those policy questions, especially when they have prima facie evidence that they suffer severe information deficits? We suggest in this chapter that interest groups provide one potential vehicle for democratic citizenries to deal with the technical information quandary. Yet, it is quite apparent that the interest group answer to this dilemma is likely to depend on the cultural and institutional context within which it is proferred. We have chosen Canada and the United States as our divergent cultural contexts for studying the extent to which interest group action might be facilitating informed, effective, and satisfying democratic participation in environmental politics by mass publics. After describing the mechanics of our study, Chapter 2 addresses with empirical evidence some of the hypothesized differences in political culture as exhibited in the beliefs and behavior of citizens and environmental activists in the state of Michigan and the Province of Ontario.

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