In democratic societies people have several possibilities of becoming involved in the political process. The most traditional as well as most obvious one is taking part in elections and supporting candidates and political parties. Another way is expressing political preferences when asked in opinion polls. There is also another form that is becoming more and more popular now - civic engagement through various kinds of interest groups and associations. Such organizations are made up of people sharing similar views or interests and usually act politically to pursue them. Interest groups try to persuade political decision-makers to adopt regulations that are in accordance with the interests of groups' members. To do so, groups engage in various kinds of activities, among which the most common are helping politicians during the electoral process and persuading them by means of using direct lobbying techniques. Direct lobbying is conducted by lobbyists acting on behalf of a particular interest group. However, this kind of lobbying is not the only one. With time, more and more groups started to employ lobbying techniques known as grass-roots or indirect lobbying. Grass-roots lobbying, in contrast to direct lobbying, is conducted by citizens, not by professional lobbyists. The main aim of groups is then to make citizens contact politicians and show them that there is public support for some proposal. This article aims to analyze the main features of grass-roots lobbying and determine how this form of citizens' activity is integrated into the system of political representation. On the one hand, grass-roots lobbying can be considered as a way of expressing peoples' views, but on the other, a tool by which groups try to influence politics. To evaluate the role of this kind of activity it is necessary to define if grass-roots lobbying can really show politicians what the public preferences are and consequently help them make more publicly acceptable decisions. By looking at the American example, which is the clearest one, the author analyzes how the characteristics of grass-roots lobbying determine the likelihood of sending the correct signal about public views and preferences. He concludes that in most of the cases, given the politicians' will to receive correct information, grass-roots lobbying can be a good indicator and thus enables people to express their opinions. Consequently, despite some dangers connected with it, it can enrich the democratic system of representation and become another channel through which citizens can engage in the political process.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.