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

Chapter Four
The Information Incentive

This study is grounded on the contention that public policy disputes in postindustrial democracies increasingly turn on scientific and technical issues, the presence of which challenges the public's capacity for understanding and influencing the course of government action ( Nelkin 1979). Can citizens really be expected to exercise informed influence over public policy when policy issues become complex and difficult ( Dahl 1985)? The urgency of this question is underscored particularly in those policy areas, such as the environment, in which there is growing public concern and active political involvement by citizens ( Enloe 1975).

In this context of complex policy, we argue that the dynamics of democratic political processes once more bring forward interest groups as one critical mechanism for pressing the public's concerns ( Milbrath 1984). By linking citizens to policy processes, interest groups are not only a vehicle for achieving political goals but they also may serve citizens in facilitating the acquisition, processing, and application of policy- relevant information. The analysis of interest groups often focuses on their exercise of political influence. In the context of contemporary policy complexity, however, the present study examines the possible important information transfer role interest groups might play. In this chapter, of particular interest is the role of information as an incentive to interest group membership, how that incentive interacts with purposive political incentives, and how the patterns of interaction among these incentives might differ in two democratic countries with historically distinct political cultures and differing institutional arrangements.

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figure and Tables ix
  • Series Foreword xiii
  • Notes xv
  • Acknowledgments xvii
  • Chapter One - Information, Individuals, and Interest Groups 1
  • Conclusion 31
  • Chapter Two - the Political Culture Context 33
  • Notes 64
  • Chapter Three - Trust in Sources of Policy-Relevant Information 69
  • Notes 94
  • Chapter Four - the Information Incentive 95
  • Notes 120
  • Chapter Five - Organizational Resources and Informational Capacity 123
  • Notes 147
  • Chapter Six - Environmental Groups as Communicators 151
  • Note 170
  • Chapter Seven - Interest Groups, Individuals, and the Technical Information Quandary 171
  • Conclusion 186
  • Appendix Survey Questionnaires 191
  • References 211
  • Index 223
  • ABOUT THE AUTHORS 227
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