Interest Groups Chapter 11
The Role and Reputation of Interest Groups • Defining Interest Groups • An organization of people with shared policy goals 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.
Theories of Interest Group Politics • Pluralist Theory • Elite Theory • Hyperpluralist Theory Click on name to go to that slide.
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.
Theories of Interest Group Politics - Pluralism • Continued • Groups provide a key link between people and government. • Groups compete. • No one group is likely to become too dominant. • Groups usually play by the “rules of the game.” • Groups weak in one resource can use another.
Theories of Interest Group Politics - Elitism • Definition: • Societies are divided along class lines and an upper-class elite rules, regardless of the formal niceties of governmental organization. • Numerous groups mean nothing, power is not equally divided among them - some have much more. • The largest corporations hold the most power.
Theories of Interest Group Politics - Elitism • Continued • Elite 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.
Theories of Interest Group[ Politics - Elitism • Perceptions of the Dominance of Big Interests (Figure 11.1)
Theories of Interest Group Politics - Hyperpluralism • Definition: • Groups are so strong that government is weakened. Extreme, exaggerated form of pluralism. • Subgovernments consist of a network of groups that exercise a great deal of control over specific policy areas. • Interest groups have become too powerful as the government tries to serve every interest.
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. • With more interest groups getting involved, these subgovernments may be dissolving.
What Makes an Interest Group Successful? • The Surprising Ineffectiveness of Large Groups • Potential group: All the people who might be interest group members because they share a common interest. • Actual group: The part of the potential group consisting of members who actually join. • Collective good: Something of value that cannot be withheld from a group member
What Makes an Interest Group Successful? • 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. (Olson’s law of large groups) • Large groups are difficult to keep organized.
What Makes an Interest Group Successful? • Small groups are better organized and more focused on the group’s goals. • Consumer groups have a difficult time getting significant policy gains - the benefits are spread over the entire population. • Groups that can provide selective benefits can overcome this problem.
What Makes an Interest Group Successful? • The Benefits of Membership in the AARP (Figure 11.2)
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.
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. • The wealthier groups don’t always win in the policy arena.
The Interest Group Explosion Figure 11.3
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.” (Lester Milbrath) • Two basic types: Those that are employed by a group, and those that are hired temporarily.
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.
How Groups Try to Shape Policy • Electioneering • Direct group involvement in the election process. • Political Action Committee (PAC): Used by interest groups to donate money to candidates. • PACs help pay the bill for increasing campaign costs. • Most PAC money goes to incumbents.
How Groups Try to Shape Policy • Litigation • If an interest group fails in one arena, 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.
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.
Types of Interest Groups • Economic Interests • Labor • Agriculture • Business • Environmental Interests • Equality Interests • Consumer and Public Interest Lobbies
Understanding Interest Groups • Interest Groups and Democracy • James Madison’s solution to the problems posed by interest groups was to create a wide-open system in which groups compete. • Elite theorists point to the proliferation of business PACs as evidence of interest group corruption. • Hyperpluralists maintain that group influence has led to policy gridlock.
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?