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The Rise and Role of Interest Groups Linkage Institutions #5.

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1 The Rise and Role of Interest Groups Linkage Institutions #5

2 The Primary Goal of Interest Groups An interest group is an organization of people sharing a common interest or goal that seeks to influence public policy Organization: Interest Groups are organized. There is a structure with a heirarchy. Common Interest: Interest Groups can have one narrow interest (NRA) or a broader range (Sierra Club). Influence Public Policy: Interest Groups attempt to get the government to pass (or not pass) laws that impact their interests.

3 Factors That Promote Interest Groups Size and Diversity of the Country Decentralized Power Number of Nonprofit Organizations Increasing Weakness of Parties Variety of Ethnic Groups Diversity of Religious Groups Separation of Powers Federalism

4 Birth and Proliferation of Interest Groups 1770s: Independence Groups 1830s: Religious/Anti-Slave 1860s: Trade Unions, Grange Movement 1880s: Business Associations 1960s: Environmental, Consumer, Political Reform 1973s: Birth of PACs. By 1990s Six times as many PACs as in the 1970s

5 Why such growth? Broad Economic Developments Create New Interests and Redefine Old Interests – Farmers became politically active – Mass-Production Industries lead to unions Government Policy – Wars create Veterans who demand benefits Strong Leaders in Social Movements – Religious Revival (1830s) Civil Rights (1960s) Expanding Role of Government – Public Interest Lobbies as government involves itself in more areas.

6 Types of Interest Groups Institutional Interests Individuals or Organizations representing other organizations Business Firms: General Motors Trade or Governmental Associations Focus on issues of central concern to clients Membership Interests Groups supported by the individual members Americans are just as likely as the British to join social, business, professional, veterans, or charitable groups. Less likely to join unions More likely to join religious, political, or civic groups due to greater sense of political efficacy

7 Why Join Interest Groups (Incentives) All interest groups deal with the Free Rider problem. – Free riders are persons in the general public who benefit from the efforts without joining the organization (no financial or membership effort) Reasons – Solidary Incentives – Material Incentives – Purposive Incentives

8 Solidary Incentives People join for the companionship, pleasure, or status benefits given by the group – Occurs when the national organization structure themselves as a coalition of the small local units – Facilitated by importance of local government

9 Material Incentives People join to gain money, things, and services that are a benefit to its members – To increase benefits these groups try to influence how laws are administered

10 Purposive Incentives People join based on the goals of the organization – Benefits usually enjoyed by non-members but people still join due to Passion about goals of the organization Strong sense of civic duty Cost to join is minimal

11 Impact of Staff The staff influences the group’s policy agenda if the solidary or material benefits are more important to the members than the purposive goals. Staff opinions may be quite different from members’ opinions (Teacher’s Unions?)

12 Social Movements/Interest Groups Social Movement: A widely shared demand for change in the social or political order. Can be liberal or conservative. Tea Party: Began as a focus on restraining government growth

13 The Environmental Movement A social movement can increase the value some people attach to purposive incentives The Environmental Movement highlights general lessons about social movemements – Movement can spawn numerous organizations – More extreme organizations will be smaller and more activist – More moderate organizations will be larger and less activist – Overtime the movement has been fragmented with differing approaches splitting the focus of the movement.

14 The Feminist Movement Highlights various types of Interest Groups – Solidary (LWV, Business and Professional Women’s Federation) Middle-class educated women Avoid issues that divide membership or limit access (partisanship, abortion) – Purposive (NOW, NARAL) Highly activist organization that takes strong positions on divisive issues Internal controversy is common Local organizations independent from national group – Material (Women’s Equality Action League) Addresses specific issues of material benefit (Equal Pay)

15 Funding for Interest Groups Foundation Grants Government Grants Direct-mail solicitation of members On-line appeals and donations

16 Parties and Interest Groups Both are linkage institutions (links average citizen with government activities) But differ in fundamental goals – Parties: Elect members to government – Interest Groups: Influence policy of government Interest Groups can often work as a support system to help parties achieve their goals

17 Parties and Interest Groups Interest Groups can support parties through… Monetary Contributions Mobilization of Voters Media Campaigns Providing Information Independent Expenditures Endorsement of Candidates


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