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Interest Groups
© 2001 by Prentice Hall, Inc.
Interest Groups
The Nature of Interest Groups
Types of Interest Groups
Interest Groups at Work
The Nature of Interest Groups – Questions
We Will Answer Today…
•What role do interest groups have in
influencing public policy?
•How can we compare and contrast political
parties and interest groups?
•Why do people see interest groups as both
good and bad for American politics?
Quote of the Day
“Wherever the body is, there will be
vultures gathered.”
- Historian Lord Bryce
Speaking about interest groups in that they operate wherever pubic
policies are created. They function at every level of government from
DC to the 50 State Capitals, to city halls and county courthouses.
The Role of Interest Groups
•Interest groups – Sometimes called “pressure
groups” private organizations whose members share views and work
to shape public policy (gun control, animal rights, prayer in
schools, minimum wage).
•Protected- 1st Amendment – “right to peaceably assemble.”
•Public policy includes all of the goals a government sets
and the various courses of action it pursues as it attempts to
realize these goals (seatbelts, flood control, old-age pensions,
•Interest groups exist to shape public policy.
Political Parties and Interest Groups
•Political parties and interest groups both unite for political purposes,
however, they differ in three striking respects
•Political parties are responsible for the nominating process, while interest groups
hope to influence those nominations.
Primary Focus
•Parties are interested in winning elections and controlling government, while
interest groups are interested in influencing the policies created by government.
Scope of Interest
•Political parties concern themselves with the whole range of public affairs, while
interest groups tend to focus on issues that their members are concerned about
(gun rights, minority protection, workers rights, treatment of animals).
Chapter 9, Section 1
Valuable Functions of Interest Groups
In 1787, James Madison warned the nation of what he called
“factions.” Despite his mistrust, he felt they were inevitable
and opposed trying to prevent them.
So, are interest groups good or bad?
•Interest groups raise awareness of public affairs, or issues that concern
the people at large (PETA, NRA).
•Interest groups represent people who share attitudes (union members).
•Interest groups provide specialized information to legislators (employment
statistics, price levels, etc.).
•Interest groups pool energy and lead to political participation (MADD).
•Interest groups keep tabs on public agencies and officials – check and
•Some groups have an influence far out of proportion
to their size or importance (rich billionaires can
impact elections, PAC’s).
•It can be difficult to tell who or how many people are
served by a group.
•Groups do not always represent the views of the
people they claim to speak for.
•In rare cases, groups use tactics such as bribery,
threats, and so on.
Section 1 Review
1. What is the role of interest groups?
(a) Raising the interest rate
(b) Organizing party conventions
(c) Influencing public policy
(d) All of the above
2. Which of the following is not a criticism of interest groups?
(a) They keep tabs on public agencies.
(b) They may not represent the views of all of their members.
(c) Some use underhanded tactics.
(d) Some have undue influence.
Types of Interest Groups
•How has the American tradition of joining
organizations resulted in a wide range of
interest groups?
•What are the four categories of groups based
on economic interests?
•What are the reasons other interest groups
have formed?
•What is the purpose of public-interest groups?
Types of Interest Groups
There are thousands of interest groups in the United States and are found
in every field of human activity.
• Many people belong to a number of interest groups.
For example, Gus, a car
salesman, belongs to the
local Chamber of Commerce,
a car dealers association, the
American Legion, a local
taxpayers league, a garden
club, a church, the PTA, the
American Cancer Society,
and the World Wildlife
Types of Interest Groups
Economic Interests
 Most interest groups have been founded on the basis of an
economic interest, especially business, labor, agricultural,
and professional interests (NAM – National Association of
Manufacturers, Chamber of Commerce – represents small
Trade association: promote business interests… (American
Trucking Association, Association of American Railroads,
Nation Restaurant Association).
Labor union: is an organization of workers who share the
same type of job or who work in the same industry… (UAW)
• Minimum wage, unemployment, social welfare of workers
Types of Interest Groups
Professional Groups
Some promote the interests of professional groups. The three
largest are the American Medical Association (AMA), the American
Bar Association (ABA), and the National Education Association
The ABA sets academic standards for law schools, sets ethical
standards for lawyers, promotes benefits for members, enhances
diversity, upholds rule of law, works for just law and human rights
Types of Interest Groups
Cause or Idea
Some are based on a cause or idea, such as environmental
protection (NRA – fights gun control, Wilderness Society –
environmental protection, PETA – animal rights, Right-to-Life –
opposes abortion).
Types of Interest Groups
Welfare of Certain Groups
Some promote the welfare of certain groups of people, such as
retired citizens
Ex: AARP – works to promote pensions and medical care for senior
Ex: NAACP – concerned with public policies affecting African
"to ensure the political, educational, social, and
economic equality of rights of all persons and to
eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination”
- NAACP mission statement
Types of Interest Groups
Religious Organizations
Some exist to influence public policy for religious purposes.
Ex: National Catholic Welfare Council represents interests of Roman
Ex: American Jewish Congress represent the interests of the Jewish
Public-Interest Groups
Some exist to benefit all citizens
A public-interest group is an interest group that seeks to
institute certain public policies that will benefit all or most of
the people in the country, whether or not they belong to that
They may lobby for clean air initiatives, clean water,
voting rights.
Of course, most interest groups claim to work for the
“common good.” In fact they all take stands that benefit
their members.
Section 2 Review
1. What kind of an interest group is the National Bar Association?
(a) Religious
(b) Professional
(c) Agricultural
(d) Labor Union
2. Green Peace is what type of interest group?
(a) Agricultural
(b) Cause-related
(c) Professional
(d) Public-interest
Interest Groups at Work
•What are interest groups’ three major goals in
influencing public opinion?
•How do interest groups use propaganda to
persuade people to their point of view?
•How do interest groups try to influence political
parties and elections?
•How does lobbying bring group pressures to
bear on the process of making public policy?
Chapter 9, Section 3
Influencing Public Opinion
Interest groups reach out to the public for
three reasons:
1. To supply information in support of the
group’s interests (Ex: Handgun Control Inc. runs ads
giving statistics of Americans killed by handguns each year)
2. To build a positive image for the group (NRA
runs adds on gun-safety programs and shooting tournaments)
3. To promote a particular public policy (AARP –
promote support for retired people)
Interest groups use Propaganda, a technique of persuasion
aimed at influencing individual or group behaviors.
• create a particular belief which may be true or false.
•disregards information that does not support its conclusion.
Presents only one side of an issue
•Propaganda often relies on name-calling and inflammatory
•Labels such as “Communist” or “fascist,” “ultraliberal” or
“ultraconservative” are examples of name calling.
• Policies that propagandists support receive labels that will
produce favorable reactions. They use glittering generalities like
“American.” “sound,” “fair,” “just.”
• Symbols are often used to elicits those reactions, too: Uncle Sam
and the flag are favorites.
• Testimonials are another famous tactic: NRA and PETA
commercials shown in are endorsements from famous people
Leah Michelle and Chuck Norris.
Classic Examples of Propaganda
Anti-communist propaganda in a 1947
comic book published by the
Catechetical Guild Educational Society
warning of "the dangers of a
Communist takeover".
American recruiting poster from World War I
depicting Uncle Sam, the personification of the
United States.
Influencing Parties and Elections
•Political Action Committees (PACs) raise and distribute
money to candidates who will further their goals.
•In 2010 Supreme Court ruled in favor of unlimited campaign
funds. PACs can donate unlimited funds to candidates that
they support. 2012 was most expensive campaign ever.
•Lobbying is any activity by which a group
pressures legislators and influences the
legislative process.
•Lobbying carries beyond the legislature. It is
brought into government agencies, the
executive branch, and even the courts.
•Nearly all important organized interest groups
maintain lobbyists in Washington, D.C.
Chapter 9, Section 3
Lobbyists at Work
Lobbyists use several techniques:
•They send articles, reports, and other information to
•They testify before legislative committees (ex: if a gun control bill is
being considered, reps from all of the groups concerned are sure to be invited and
have a chance to present their views).
•They bring “grass-roots”(of the people) pressures to bear
through email, letters, or phone calls from constituents.
•They rate candidates (Congress members and Presidential hopefuls)
and publicize the ratings through mass media.
•They lobby in legislative, executive and judicial branches
from the local to the national level.
Chapter 9, Section 3
Section 3 Review
1. What is propaganda?
(a) A bill that has been vetoed
(b) A one-sided argument
(c) An objective description
(d) A scientific paper
2. How do lobbyists influence legislators?
(a) Send articles and reports
(b) “Grass roots” campaigns
(c) Publicized ratings
(d) All of the above
Chapter 9, Section 3