Interest Groups & Political Parties Linking citizens to government
Interest Groups • “Groups of individuals and/or institutions united by shared opinions or interests and organized together in an effort to influence political outcomes.” (Grigsby text) • Primary goal: to influence public policy as it affects their members.
Interest Groups in the U.S. • From the beginning, Americans have joined groups for political purposes. • Alexis de Tocqueville noted in the 1830s that, “Americans form associations for the smallest undertakings.” • Still true.
Different than Political Parties • Interest groups don’t seek to win electoral office, although they may promote a particular candidate or public policy.
Government & Interest Groups • Three Patterns in Democracies: • Interest Group Pluralism • Democratic Corporatism • State Autonomy • Nondemocratic Patterns: • Informal & limited feedback • State Corporatism
Interest Group Pluralism • Groups operate outside of government in a competitive environment, providing citizens with multiple avenues to affect public policy. Government often responds to this interest group pressure. Controversy arises if groups are seen as too involved in policy making. • This pattern is found in the U.S., Canada and New Zealand.
Democratic Corporatism • In other democracies, economic interest groups are formally involved in the government decision-making process, acting as partners in setting policy. Those groups include labor unions, businesses, health professionals, & educators. • This pattern is found in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Austria and the Netherlands.
State Autonomy • In some instances, democratic policy makers do not consider interest group pressure, when they feel confident of their expertise and judgment. The text provides the example of some British economic policies.
Interest groups in non-democratic regimes • Interest groups still exist but their strategies differ: letter writing campaigns, work stoppages or soliciting support from other countries (a risky strategy). • Government may formally include groups through state corporatism. Group participation is not independent, however. They are expected to promote the government’s agenda & ensure acceptance of their rank-and-file members.
Types of interest groups • Anomic • Non-associational • Institutional • Associational
Types of interest groups • Anomic interest groups. These spring into being as a result of some crisis or specific event. No formal structure or leaders. • Any examples?
Anomic - examples Two examples recently in France: • Disaffected immigrant youths in poor urban areas protesting discrimination. Dozens of buildings & hundreds of cars destroyed. (fall 2005) • Disaffected white youths protesting a new labor law that makes permits employers to fire younger workers more easily. 69 of 84 campuses partly closed and 25% of high schools (spring 2006)
Types of interest groups • Nonassociational groups. These have no formal organization and in fact no sense of themselves as being members of a group, but are regarded by others as if they were a formal group. • Any examples?
Nonassociational - Examples • Consumers • Soccer Moms & NASCAR Dads • University students
Types of interest groups • Institutional groups. These are organized for other purposes but deal in politics to advance their institutional interests. • Any examples?
Institutional Interest Groups • Click on this website: http://www.nmsu.edu/~legislat/ [NMSU legislative priorities]
Types of interest groups • Associational groups. These are organized for political activity although they also may engage in other activity. • Any examples?
Associational groups in the U.S. • Five types: • 1. Economic interests. Trade association, corporations, labor unions, professional groups like the ABA & AMA. • 2. Public interest. “Good government” groups like Common Cause and the League of Women Voters. • 3. Single issue. Groups focus almost exclusively on such policies as abortion, gun control, school prayer, etc.
Associational groups in the U.S. • 4. Ideological groups, which may encompass the above issues but are broader, such as the Christian Coalition on the right and People for the American Way on the left. • 5. Groups that represent particular constituents, such as the AARP, NOW and the NAACP.
Identify the type of interest group: • The National Union of Students in the UK (United Kingdom) provides membership cards, lobbies government ministers, gives student awards. • The U.S. Army provides training & housing for recruits; engages in military operations, and occasionally testifies before Congress regarding new weapons systems, budget allocations, base closings, etc.
Interest group strategies • 1.) Direct lobbying of policy makers: • a. contact legislators & executive officials one-on-one to establish good working relationship, and sometimes to persuade them to support particular legislation. • b. formal advice or testimony to legislature or agency, providing technical information or specialized knowledge.
Interest group strategies • 2.) Grassroots lobbying: public information campaigns to influence and mobilize ordinary people, so that they will put pressure on government officials.
Interest group strategies • 3.) Campaign involvement, supporting or opposing candidates and proposals. Support may be through official endorsements, direct financial contributions, indirect (or independent) expenditures, running issue ads, and bundling PAC contributions with like-minded groups.
Interest group strategies • 4.) Litigation strategies: involved in court cases either directly as plaintiffs or indirectly by filing "friend of court" (amicus curiae) briefs on one side or the other. • Legal strategy began in U.S. with civil rights movement; now extensively used by wide array of groups.
Interest group strategies • 5.) Lawful & unlawful protest to bring issues to the national agenda. Includes: * Economic disruptions, e.g., strikes & boycotts * Rallies and demonstrations, e.g., the current antiwar protests * Sabotage * Threats of violence