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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Chapter Six
Environmental Groups as Communicators

The comparisons of underlying conceptions of societal arrangements and the polity in the Canadian and American settings presented in previous chapters suggest that environmental groups in Canada and the United States operate in quite different cultural and institutional milieux as they seek to influence public policy processes ( Gibbins and Nevitte 1985; Horowitz 1966; Presthus 1974; Lipset 1985, 1990). Nevertheless, it is likely that A. Paul Pross is quite correct in noting that interest groups are "political communication mechanisms capable of adapting to the policy system in which they are located" ( 1975, p. 27). In this chapter, the focus is on cross-national differences (adaptations) in the activities of the Canadian and American environmental interest groups taking part in this study. Also of interest, of course, is any evidence that such differences as might have typified a comparison of Canadian and American interest groups in the past are diminishing under the common weight of postindustrial conditions in Canada and the United States ( Yang 1988).

The assumption is made that environmental interest group members and their leaders in both national settings are attempting to influence the public policy process, but the expectation is that precisely how environmental activists actually do this is quite likely affected by the structure and values of their respective political systems ( Milbrath 1983). The structure of both governmental systems--the parliamentary format of Canada and the presidential system in the United States--will have a significant impact on the access environmental groups have to government officials ( Lowe and Goyder 1983, pp. 163-175). In addition, cross- national variation in the political cultures of Ontario and Michigan are

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