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American Government POLS 1101 Instructor: Mr. Mancill Chapter 7: Interest Groups and Political Parties Interest Groups in American Politics This chapter examines the role that interest groups and political parties play in the American political system.

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American Government

POLS 1101

Instructor: Mr. Mancill

Chapter 7: Interest Groups and Political Parties


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Interest Groups in American Politics

  • This chapter examines the role that interest groups and political parties play in the American political system.

  • Interest group- an association of people who hold common views and who work together to influence what government does.

    • Interest groups play an important role in American politics. Americans join groups to solve problems.


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Interest Groups in American Politics

  • In Federalist Number 10, James Madison offers is take on factions.

    • Factions- groups of people motivated by a common cause.

    • Competition among many groups representing many interests is good.

    • If there are many groups representing many interests, then no one group can take over.


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Interest Groups in American Politics

  • Pluralist democracy- American society is made up of different groups, each looking to secure its member's interest. The task of government is to manage group conflict.

  • Melting pot- characterization of America as the coming together of a wide variety of racial, ethnic, and religious groups.


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What Interest Groups Do

  • Interest groups engage in a broad range of activities to protect and advance the well-being of their members.

    • Groups try to create public support for their political goals

    • Groups finance political campaigns through PAC's

    • Groups lobby

      • Lobbying-attempting to influence legislation through communication with legislators.


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What Interest Groups Do

  • Lobbying

    • Lobbyists are a source of information for the legislature. Lobbyists provide published materials, and testify before congress.

    • Lobbyists are sometimes involved in the writing of legislation.

    • Lobbyists keep a watchful eye on the rules and regulations of the government and act when they perceive a threat to their cause.


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What Interest Groups Do

  • Iron Triangle-the combination of interest groups, legislative committees, and government administrators who determine the outcome of political decisions.


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Types of Interest Groups

  • Economic

  • Social

  • Religious

  • Ideological

  • Single-Issue

  • Public Interest


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Types of Interest Groups

  • Economic (Business, Labor, Agriculture, Professions)

    • Interest groups commonly form around economic issues.

    • Business groups are among the most powerful of all interest groups.

    • Business interest groups join together to better enhance their strength.

      • Examples include: National Association of Manufacturers, American Bar Association


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Types of Interest Groups

2. Social (gender, race, and ethnic discrimination, economic advancement)

  • The women's movement is tied to politics, many of the movement's goals are related to political issues.

  • Ties have been strengthened by the increasing number of women who run for political office.

  • The NAACP is a major social interest group

    • Dedicated to the interests of African Americans


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Types of Interest Groups

3. Religious (religious freedom)

  • Although we have separation of church and state, there are a number of religious interest groups.

  • Members often belong to the Christian Right, a conservative group that gets involved in the political process.

  • They want a constitutional amendment to allow school prayer, they want the teaching of creationism in schools, and are against the teaching of anything other than abstinence.


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Types of Interest Groups

4. Ideological (impact of specific public policy)

  • Some groups pursue a political agenda.

  • When the agenda is broad, the group is characterized as ideological.

  • Clear philosophy of government action.

  • Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), liberal perspective on American politics.

  • Ratings of members of Congress, calling attention to liberal values.


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Types of Interest Groups

5. Single-Issue (narrow agenda, limited goals)

  • Single issue groups have a narrow agenda and limited political goals.

  • Anti-abortion movement is the most visible.

  • National Right To Life Committee wants to ban abortion.

  • These groups think political candidates should be supported based upon their views on abortion.


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Types of Interest Groups

6. Public Interest (Broadly defined consumer and general welfare goals)

  • Public interest groups represent the public as a whole.

  • Focus on product safety and effective government regulation of industry.


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Foundation of Democracy

  • Classic democratic theory states that we must be interested in politics, and be active in the political process

  • Many people are uninterested or inactive in politics. However, interest groups make sure that everyone's interest in represented without being politically active.


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Political Parties

  • Political party- an organization that seeks to influence public policy by putting its own members into positions of governmental authority.

  • What is the distinction between an interest group and a political party?

    Interest groups want to influence, while political parties want to control government


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What Political Parties Do

1. Socialization functions

  • People tend to identify with a political party, parties help to structure people's perceptions of politics

  • Parties educate citizens about politics

  • Parties tell voters what is going on, and how it affects them.


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What Political Parties Do

2. Electoral functions

  • Integration of interests. There must be candidates to satisfy needs common to large numbers of voters.

  • The set of alternatives is simplified. Voters usually find one candidate that reflects their views, leads to a less number of candidates on the ballot.

  • Parties complement the legally established process for choosing officials. Setting up procedures for determining who will represent a party.


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What Political Parties Do

3. Governmental functions

  • Parties organize government

  • Parties help make government responsible to the people. We reward a party for doing a good job, and punish the party for doing a bad job.


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A Two-Party System

  • Two-party system- a system in which only two parties have a chance of winning office.

  • Why the two party system?

    • Plurality election vs. Proportional representation


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A Two-Party System

  • Plurality election system-candidate wins by just getting the most votes, even if is less than a majority.

  • Proportional representation- offices are awarded in proportion to the percentage of votes a party receives.

    • Encourages the growth of more than two parties because a party that places third or fourth can still win seats.


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A Two-Party System

  • Other than the electoral system having an impact, other factors contribute to our two-party system.

    • Centrist distribution of opinions

    • The impact of history

    • Absence of intense ethnic and religious divisions that lead to fragmentation in society