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Who Participates? (in general)
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  1. Who Participates? (in general) • High SES • education • income • employment • Strong political skills (efficacy) • Instrumental participation • Expressive participation • Strong political resources • Time, money, civic skills

  2. Who Participates?

  3. Assessment-Public Opinion • Will of the people is plural (not singular), ambiguous, inconstant, and often difficult to discern • Public policy is most influenced by those who participate (efficacious) • Linking institutions are vital

  4. Interest Groups “a politically oriented organization of persons who share common attitudes on some matter and make demands on others in society with respect to that matter” (p. 137) • Not all use government to influence others • Pros and Cons • Tocqueville: Americans have a propensity to form associations (1st Amendment) • Madison warned against the mischief of factions and developed government systems to control their effects

  5. Interest Groups & Political Parties • Interest Groups don’t: • nominate candidates for election to office • attempt to represent a broad range of interests • carry extra ethical burdens or public obligations • Interest Group goals: • Promote the group’s interests in government • Protect the group’s interests from others

  6. Functions of Interest Groups • Represent constituents before members of Congress, administrators, regulators, etc. • Facilitate public (indirect) participation in politics • Educate government officials, membership, public at large • Develop public agendas by encouraging action on important issues • Monitor implementation of policies

  7. Why do Interest Groups Form? • Pluralist theorists attribute it to disturbances in the system (events); people respond to invisible hand • this is a theory of David Truman • Others attribute interest group formation to the leadership of “organizational entrepreneurs” • this is another theory • Cesar Chavez is associated with this • Third group applies population ecology model & political “carrying capacity” with market niche

  8. Why do Interest Groups Form? • Evidence of all; but resources matter • large & active membership • access to finances • access to leadership and expertise • nature of “mission:” • public interest groups • corporate & trade organizations • single issue lobbies • Growth since 1959: 5,800 to 23,300

  9. Why do people join? • Material benefits: • Reduced rates for services • Publications, professional association • Solidarity benefits: • Shared membership; socialization; identity • Purposive benefits: • sense of common good; support of “cause”

  10. Rational actor and the free-rider problem • Mancur Olson: rational to join when benefits are discrete; individualized • Public interest organizations won’t survive because their accomplishments benefit all whether they contribute or not (free rider) • Paradox: If no one contributes, there will be no benefits for anyone

  11. Political Action Committees (PACs) • Funding arm of interest groups • Donate funds ($5,000 limit per candidate per election); incumbents benefit most • Purpose of donations is political access • Critics argue that representation shouldn’t be tied to money • Proponents (including Supreme Court) say money is a form of speech • California: http://cal-access.ss.ca.gov/ • U.S.: http://www.fec.gov/

  12. Lobbying Tactics • Direct lobbying • personal contacts • Congressional testimony • court litigation; executive hearings • Indirect lobbying • Influential donors and the media • Grass roots lobbying • letter writing campaigns • political protests

  13. Lobbying Tactics continued • Information campaigns • public relations (advertising, public speaking, newsletters, pamphlets) • sponsored research (more recent; more partisan) • publicizing Congressional votes • rating elected officials • Coalition building, logrolling

  14. Pros and Cons Revisited • Participation is not “democratic” • Iron law of oligarchy says that groups serve leadership interests • Still, members can vote with their feet (or pocketbook); support is voluntary • Well established interest groups can become part of iron triangle or policy issue network (elected officials, lobbyists, administrators)

  15. More Pros and Cons • Interest groups favor those with high SES and better chance of access • Public interest groups may represent the poor, but they don’t encourage the poor to develop their own skills of political efficacy • Still, standard of conduct observed when lobbying Congress (e.g., tobacco) • Airlines lobbied FAA against security oversight?

  16. Still More Pros and Cons • Research does not prove relationship between donations and legislation (causality is complex) • Little evidence of quid pro quo although it is clear that money has influence • Importance of public relations is increasing • Organized mail campaigns can misrepresent public interest • Tension between equality and freedom