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. • 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What Interest Groups Do • Iron Triangle-the combination of interest groups, legislative committees, and government administrators who determine the outcome of political decisions.
Types of Interest Groups • Economic • Social • Religious • Ideological • Single-Issue • Public Interest
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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