6.4.1 Overview of Political Pressures
This overview of political pressures illustrates the two-way relationships between politicians and those who try to influence them
Politicians in any political system must take account of what people think, so they are susceptible to pressures. The pressures come from those who want something in return, so power flows in both directions. Politicians give people and organisations what they want, in exchange for receiving support at the ballot box or as financial donations. The power relationships resulting from these pressures are illustrated below:
The above diagrammatic overview of political pressures is followed by sections on the different relationships:
● The need for popular support (6.4.2) is immediate and pressing in democracies, where politicians need people’s votes to gain and retain power. They try to gauge people’s feelings, and they may be influenced by public protests, but they can also take an active role in trying to influence public opinion. The operation of this two-way relationship has been profoundly influenced by Internet social media – which are used by people, organisations, and politicians alike.
● The mainstream media – newspapers, television, and radio – are influential (6.4.3). Politicians pay attention to them, on the assumption that they reflect public opinion, but the media mostly present a biased picture, depending on the ideology of the owners. The owners also have a financial interest in not being taxed too heavily or regulated too tightly.
● People and organisations can band together to form interest groups (6.4.4). These groups have several ways of promoting their interests.
● Financial donations can be very important in democracies, providing politicians and political parties with the funding to employ help and advertise their policies (6.4.5). Businesses and wealthy individuals have the economic means to make such donations, and they have a financial interest in having low taxes and light regulation.
These pressures are an important part of the negotiating framework in the Political Dimension. They provide ways of communicating with politicians, but they can distort political decision-making (6.4.6).