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Pearson Education, Inc. © 2005 Interest-Group Participation in American Democracy Chapter Seven.

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Presentation on theme: "Pearson Education, Inc. © 2005 Interest-Group Participation in American Democracy Chapter Seven."— Presentation transcript:

1 Pearson Education, Inc. © 2005 Interest-Group Participation in American Democracy Chapter Seven

2 Pearson Education, Inc. © 2005 Interest Groups in the U.S. Americans are joiners. More than 3/4 belong to at least one group. On average they belong to two groups and make financial contributions to four. Not all are political groups, but many are, and those that are not still encourage political activity. Interest group: Organization or association of people with common interests that engages in politics on behalf of its members

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4 Growth and Development Group formation in the U.S. has occurred in waves. After the Civil War, the birth of a national economy spurred national agricultural organizations and trade unions. Progressive Era, 1890 to 1917, brought broad- based economic organizations as well as NAACP and the Audubon Society : wave of organizational growth –Specialized interest groups, government interest groups, single issue groups, citizen groups emerged. –Growth due to changes in politics, law and technology

5 Pearson Education, Inc. © 2005 The Nature and Variety of Interest Groups Great variety of form –Membership groups: example, Common Cause –Associations: consist of corporate or institutional representatives who pay regular dues: example, American Medical Association Estimation that almost 80 percent of interest groups in existence in the 1980s represented professional or occupational constituencies (both profit-seeking and non-profit) The other 20 percent reflect citizens groups. (social movements)

6 Pearson Education, Inc. © 2005 Forming and Maintaining Interest Groups Millions do not join groups. –In many cases, an interest group may include only 1 percent or less of their potential membership. Common interest may be a necessary condition for membership, but…it is not sufficient. Not all interests form groups. If some kinds of interests are not represented, politics may be biased. Moreover, when interest groups are formed, they often must work hard to maintain themselves providing incentives to members that justifies an investment in the member’s resources.

7 Pearson Education, Inc. © 2005 Forming and Maintaining Interest Groups Types of incentives –Solidarity- joining for social reasons –Material- joining for economic reasons –Purposive- joining to advance a group’s social and political goals

8 Pearson Education, Inc. © 2005 The Free-Rider Problem The free-rider problem arises when people can enjoy the benefits of group activity without bearing any of the costs. People realize their personal impact is so small as to be unnoticeable. So why contribute your money, time or effort? What will $20 do? And what if you don’t contribute $20? Will the group still work to end world hunger? Yes. These two elements encourage individuals to free-ride.

9 Pearson Education, Inc. © 2005 The Free-Rider Problem Problem effects larger groups to a greater degree –Small groups, social pressure creates an incentive to contribute. All things being equal, the free-rider problem is more serious the greater the distance and abstractness of the benefit the group seeks to achieve. –Feeding the poor in your neighborhood versus reducing world hunger.

10 Pearson Education, Inc. © 2005 The Free-Rider Problem Public goods –Goods that you can enjoy without contributing – by free-riding on the efforts of those who do. Private goods –Goods that you must purchase to enjoy, and your consumption of which means that others cannot consume them. Free-rider problem implies that democratic politics will favor narrow “special’ interests at the expense of the broader “public” interest.

11 Pearson Education, Inc. © 2005 Overcoming the Free-Rider Problem Coercion –social pressure or force to make people join in a collective effort Milder forms: Practicing law usually requires membership in the state bar association. Some trades require a state license or official certification. Those who wish to participate must go through formal processes and belong to particular organizations. Declining means of overcoming free-riding

12 Pearson Education, Inc. © 2005 Overcoming the Free-Rider Problem Social Movements –Broad-based demand for government action on some problem or issue, such as civil rights for blacks and women or environmental protection –Example: abolitionist movement, Populist and labor movements, women’s suffrage movement and the civil rights movement

13 Pearson Education, Inc. © 2005 Overcoming the Free-Rider Problem Selective Benefits –Side benefits of belonging to an organization that is limited to contributing members of the organization. –Example: AARP offers access to mail order pharmacy services where volume decreases price paid by individuals, low cost auto, health and life insurance, discounts on hotels, airfares, and car rentals, etc.

14 Pearson Education, Inc. © 2005 Overcoming the Free-Rider Problem Political Entrepreneurs –People willing to assume the costs of forming and maintaining an organization even when others may free-ride on them Patrons –Rich individuals with deep commitments to the group goal may make a difference with large contributions

15 Pearson Education, Inc. © 2005 How Interest Groups Influence Government There are many ways that interest groups can influence government. –Lobbying –Grassroots lobbying –Electioneering and political action committees –Persuading the public –Direct action –Litigation

16 Pearson Education, Inc. © 2005 Lobbying Lobbying: Interest group activities intended to influence directly the decisions that public officials make –May draft bills, testify before congressional committees, meet with elected officials and present their cases, provide information –Often on specific rather than general matters Lobbyist: someone who engages in lobbying –Full-time and part-time –“Hired gun” with contacts and expertise for a price –Others affiliated with particular party –Staff lobbyist –Leaders of organizations do double duty as lobbyists.

17 Pearson Education, Inc. © 2005 Grassroots Lobbying These are efforts by groups and associations to influence elected officials indirectly by arousing their constituents. New innovation: grass-tops lobbying –An interest group makes an ad featuring a prominent local personality (someone who is an important supporter of a member of Congress) then plays the ad in the members district. –The assumption is that key supporters of the congressional member are on the interest group’s side. Key supporters may be more influential than regular voters.

18 Pearson Education, Inc. © 2005 Electioneering and PACs A way to affect the views of public officials generally is by influencing who gets elected. Political Action Committees –Specialized organizations for raising and contributing campaign funds –Varied in nature –Have grown immensely in number in 1980s –Give instrumentally: donating to the members of key committees regardless of party –Most PAC contributions small and intended to gain access to public officials –Often politicians extort PACS –Relationship goes both ways

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21 Persuading the Public Overlaps a bit with grassroots lobbying Focus primarily on issue advocacy –Advertising campaigns that attempt to influence public opinion on an issue –Communicate with citizens even when no specific legislation or regulation is at issue Direct mail is another tool interest groups use. –Computer-generated letters, faxes, and other communications to people who might be sympathetic to an appeal for money or support Generating media coverage for the group and its agenda

22 Pearson Education, Inc. © 2005 Other Activities Direct Action: Involves everything from peaceful sit-in and demonstrations to riots and even rebellion. Litigation: Involves carrying out a legal strategy to utilize court decisions to support the interests group’s goals. –Example: Civil Rights Movement carefully selected cases to litigate that eventually led to landmark decisions that helped end segregation. Filing amicus curiae briefs is another strategy that involves participation in the legal system. (Intended to influence litigation outcome)

23 Pearson Education, Inc. © 2005 Why Groups Use Particular Tactics Different groups use different strategies or mixes of strategies. Group characteristics –What kind of group it is, what kind of resources and how much of the resource it has all determine strategic choices. Situational characteristics –What is available to the group? Civil rights organizations did not have access to traditional tools like lobbying. They had to use courts.

24 Pearson Education, Inc. © 2005 How Influential are Interest Groups? Subgovernments –Alliance of a congressional committee, a bureaucratic agency, and a small number of allied interest groups that combine to dominate policy making in some specified policy area Issue Networks –A loose constellation of larger numbers of committees, agencies, interest groups and policy experts active in a particular policy area

25 Pearson Education, Inc. © 2005 How Influential are Interest Groups? Consensus today – issue networks are more representative of the policy environment than iron triangles Even term “network” may exaggerate the organization in interest group activity Likely that interest group influence is conditional Ranges from weak to strong –depends on the conditions under which groups try to influence politics

26 Pearson Education, Inc. © 2005 Interest Groups and Democratic Politics Why do contemporary Americans hold interest groups in such low regard? The Constitution encourages their existence. Pluralism sees their positive contributions. –School of thought holding that politics is the clash of groups that represent all important interests in society and that check and balance each other

27 Pearson Education, Inc. © 2005 Interest Groups and Democratic Politics But pluralism has been criticized –Unrepresentativeness of interest group universe –Interest of whole nation is not equal to the sum of the interests of the parts –Groups reinforce extremism and undercut moderation –General interests of a moderate population can get lost amid the bitter fighting of intense and extreme special interests.

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