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Interest Groups. The Role and Reputation of Interest Groups. Defining Interest Groups An organization of people with shared policy goal entering the policy process at several points to try to achieve those goals. Interest groups pursue their goals in many arenas.

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Interest Groups

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Interest groups l.jpg

Interest Groups


The role and reputation of interest groups l.jpg

The Role and Reputation of Interest Groups

  • Defining Interest Groups

    • An organization of people with shared policy goal entering the policy process at several points to try to achieve those goals. Interest groups pursue their goals in many arenas.

    • Political Parties fight election battles, Interest Groups don’t- but they may choose sides.

    • Interest Groups are policy specialists, Political Parties are policy generalists.


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The Role and Reputation of Interest Groups

  • Why Interest Groups Get Bad Press

    • The writers of the Constitution disliked organized groups- parties and interest groups.

    • Dishonest lobbyists get more press than the honest ones- even though there are far more honest lobbyists.

    • The term “lobbying” in general has negative connotations.


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Theories of Interest Group Politics

  • Pluralist Theory

  • Elite Theory

  • Hyperpluralist Theory

Click on name to go to that slide.


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Theories of Interest Group Politics- Pluralism

  • Definition:

    • Politics is mainly a competition among groups, each one pressing for its own preferred policies.

    • Many centers of power and many diverse, competing groups.

    • No group wins or loses all the time.

    • Groups provide the key link between the people and the government.


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Theories of Interest Group Politics- Pluralism

  • Continued…

    • Groups compete

    • No group becomes too dominate

    • Groups play by the rules

    • Groups weak in one resource can rely on another resource.

    • Lobbying is open to all, therefore, not a problem.


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Theories of Interest Group Politics- Elitism

  • Definition:

    • Societies are divided along class lines and that an upper-class elite will rule, regardless of the formal niceties of governmental organization.

    • Numerous groups means nothing, the power is not equally divided among them- some have much more.

    • The largest corporations hold the most power.


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Theories of Interest Group Politics- Elitism

  • Continued…

    • The power is strengthened by a system of interlocking directorates of these corporations and other institutions.

    • Corporate elites are willing to lose the minor policy battles, but work to win the major policy issues in their favor.

    • Lobbying is a problem because it benefits the few at the expense of the many.


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Theories of Interest Group Politics- Hyperpluralism

  • Definition:

    • Groups are so strong that government is weakened. Extreme, exaggerated form of pluralism.

    • Iron Triangles keep government from working properly.

    • Interest groups have become too powerful since the government tries to serve every interest.


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Theories of Interest Group Politics- Hyperpluralism

  • Continued…

    • The many subgovernments (iron triangles) aggravate the process.

    • When the government tries to please all the groups, the policies become confusing and contradictory.

    • But with more interest groups getting involved, these subgovernments may be dissolving.


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What Makes an Interest Group Successful?

The Top 10 from Table 11.1


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What Makes an Interest Group Successful?

  • The Surprising Ineffectiveness of Large Groups

    • Free-Rider problem: Some people don’t join interest groups because they benefit from the group’s activities without officially joining.

    • The bigger the group, the larger the free-rider problem.

    • Large groups are difficult to keep organized.


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What Makes an Interest Group Successful?

  • Small groups are better organized and more focused on the group’s goals.

  • Thus consumer groups have a difficult time getting significant policy gains- the benefits are spread over the entire population.

  • Groups that can provide selective benefits is a way to overcome this problem.


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What Makes an Interest Group Successful?

  • Intensity

    • Single-Issue groups: Groups that focus on a narrow interest and dislike compromise.

    • Groups may focus on an emotional issue, providing them with a psychological advantage.

    • May be more likely to use protests and other means of political participation than traditional interest groups that use lobbyists.


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What Makes an Interest Group Successful?

  • Financial Resources

    • Not all groups have equal amounts of money.

    • Monetary donations usually translate into access to the politicians- a phone call, a meeting, etc.

    • There is a bias towards the wealthier groups.

    • But, the wealthier groups don’t always win in the policy arena.


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The Interest Group Explosion

Figure 11.3


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How Groups Try to Shape Policy

  • Lobbying

    • “communication by someone other than a citizen acting on his own behalf, directed to a governmental decisionmaker with the hope of influencing his decision.”

    • Two basic types: Those that are employed by a group, and those that are hired temporarily.


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How Groups Try to Shape Policy

  • Lobbyists are a source of information.

  • Lobbyists can help politicians plan political strategies for legislation.

  • Lobbyists can help politicians plan political strategies for reelection campaigns.

  • Lobbyists can provide ideas and innovations that can be turned into policies that the politician can take credit for.


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How Groups Try to Shape Policy

  • Electioneering

    • Direct group involvement in the election process.

    • Political Action Committee (PAC): Used by corporations and unions to donate money to candidates. Sometimes used by groups as well.

    • Groups are often picky about who gets money.

    • Groups can do more than just donate money.


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How Groups Try to Shape Policy

  • Litigation

    • If an interest group fails in one area, the courts may be able to provide a remedy.

    • Interest groups can file amicus curiae briefs in court cases to support their position.

    • Class Action lawsuits permit small groups of people to try and correct a situation on behalf of a much larger group.


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How Groups Try to Shape Policy

  • Going Public

    • Groups try and cultivate a good public image.

    • Groups use marketing strategies to influence public opinion of the group and its issues.

    • Groups will purchase advertising to motivate the public about an issue.

    • Currently, some groups use a more “soft sell” approach style of public relations.


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Types of Interest Groups

  • Economic Interests

    • Labor

    • Agriculture

    • Business

  • Environmental Interests

  • Equality Interests

  • Consumer and Public Interest Lobbies


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Understanding Interest Groups

  • Interest Groups and Democracy

    • A wide open government would force groups to compete and counterbalance each other.

    • More groups means more lobbyists and thus better democracy to some.

    • Others argue that groups are not equal and some get more than they should, which is not good for democracy.


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Understanding Interest Groups

  • Interest Groups and the Scope of Government

    • Interest groups seek to maintain policies and programs that benefit them.

    • Interest groups continue to pressure government to do more things.

    • But as the government does more things, does that cause the formation of more groups?


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Internet Resources

  • AARP

  • AFL-CIO

  • NEA

  • Greenpeace

  • Common Cause

  • Free speech- Social Security


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