What is an Interest Group? An interest group is a group of people that organizes to be heard and influence government programs and policies. More narrow in focus (exclusive) than political parties – involve themselves in policies not personnel.
Clicker Question Do you agree or disagree that political interest groups are good for American democracy? a. Strongly agree b. Agree c. Disagree d. Strongly disagree
Interest Groups and Democracy Interest groups represent the interests of their members, encourage political participation, enhance democracy, educate and mobilize voters, lobby, and monitor governmental activity. However, not all interests are represented equally; their politics can sometimes work to the advantage and disadvantage of others. Pluralism – The theory that all interests ARE and SHOULD be free to compete for influence in the government.
Types of Interest Groups Business and Agricultural – Economic Sectors, Large Corporations, Chamber of Commerce, Farm Bureau Federation… Labor – AFL-CIO, United Mine Workers, National Education Association, Teamsters… Professional Associations – AMA, ADA, ABA, American Bankers Association… Public Interests – Sierra Club, Common Cause, ACLU, NRA Ideological Groups – People for American Way, Christian Coalition, Tea Party Patriots Public-Sector Groups – National League of Cities, Brookings Institution, CATO Institute, universities,
Clicker Question Would you join an Interest Group focusing on the right of Undergraduates? a. YES b. NO What would this group focus on?
Potential Interest Groups Many public policy “interests” are not organized into “groups.” either because no one has organized them or because there is no way to organize the group. Examples: Undergraduates, Tall People, Left-Handed People, The Homeless, Sex-Offenders… The Elderly were a “potential interest” until AARP was founded in 1958.
Clicker Question ALL “interests” present in society should be free to organize and attempt to influence the government. a. Strongly agree b. Agree c. Disagree d. Strongly disagree
Clicker Question Sex-Offenders should have the right to organize and influence the government? a. Strongly agree b. Agree c. Disagree d. Strongly disagree
Overcoming Free-Riding So, how do you get people (with common interests) to organize into a group? ANSWER: Give’em Stuff! Selective Benefits 1. Informational – GPSA, Journal of Politics 2. Material – National Geographic Magazine, AAA 3. Solidary – People like me… 4. Purposive - GreenPeace
Who Joins? Interest group membership is not random! People with higher incomes, higher education levels, and management or professional occupations are more likely to be group members than those in lower socioeconomic levels.
Clicker Question In grassroots mobilization, interest groups: A. deal directly with just junior members of Congress B. file suits in state and local courts C. deal directly with lower-level bureaucrats D. attempt to involve the general citizenry and voters
Interest Group Strategies Sometimes we classify the strategies of interest groups as INSIDER or OUTSIDER – the key difference is ACCESS. Lobbying (Access) - INSIDER Using The Courts - BOTH Mobilizing Public Opinion - BOTH Using Electoral Politics - BOTH
Interest Groups use both DIRECT and INDIRECT strategies to influence elected officials.
Clicker Question Do you believe former members of Congress should or should not be allowed to lobby their former colleagues? A. Allow former members of Congress to lobby B. Do not allow former members of Congress to lobby