Interest Groups and
Public Opinion
 The President and the mass med have a mutually
beneficial relationship.
 Receives more news coverage; in turn is allowed to
communicate with the public
 Congress and the federal courts receive far less media
attention
 Confirmation hearings, oversight activities, or personal
lives are where most attention lie
Candidates for major office must be
telegenic
Project a pleasing image on camera
Political unknowns who skillfully use the television can quickly become serious
candidates
Television allows celebrities, whom voters instantly recognize, to run for office
without working their way up through a party’s organization
The media stresses “horse-race coverage” of presidential primaries. It focuses on
“winners” and “losers” rather than on issues. Front-runners, or early winners, can
attract financial support for their campaigns. Early “losers” may be forced to drop
out.
Candidates spend huge sums on spot
advertising
Brief, televised commercials that present
positive images of the candidate or
negative images of the opposition
Television has also made candidates more dependent on financial contributions to
help fund their campaigns
The issues emphasized by the media play Societal problems that both citizens and
a large role in defining the public agenda government agree need attention
 Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
 Regulate interstate and international communications
by radio, television, telephone, telegraph, cable, and
satellite
 It can’t CENSOR broadcasts, BUT it can make the rules
“in the public interest”
 The extent of FCC content regulations varies in response
to changing technology, court rulings, and changes in
political climate
 The internet is rapidly becoming a new type of global
mass media with a major impact on American
government and politics
 Can reach widespread and diverse global audiences
 Ability for interactive communication among many
people simultaneously
 Can quickly form large numbers of people to support a
candidate or issue
 Useful for accessing government services and
information
 Increases citizen participation by allowing for
increased interaction with government officials, rapid
spread of current political information through action
alerts and petitions, the development of grassroots
websites, and increased volunteer opportunities
Interest Group
Organization
Thousands of
interest groups try
to influence
government
actions. Many
people believe that
these groups help
citizens
communicate their
goals and concerns
to the government
 Are any organization of people with policy
goals who work within the political process
to promote such goals. They try to influence
policy in various ways:
Lobbying
Government
Organized interests hire representatives to advocate on behalf of
the group’s interests. Lobbying activities include contacting
members of Congress and the executive branch to disseminate
information about the positive or adverse effects of proposed
legislation
Engaging in
election
activities
Interests may attempt to influence elections in order to help get
people who support their issues elected or reelected.
Electioneering techniques include giving money to candidates,
endorsing candidates or issues, or other grass-roots drives
Educating
various
publics
Work hard to educate the public at large, government officials,
their own members, and potential interest groups members
Mobilizing
various
publics
To influence policy-making, many groups rely on the efforts of
people who are motivated to act on behalf of their issues and
causes
Types of Groups
Trade associations
(economic interest
groups)
Generally represent on segment of economy; take a
stand on a variety of policy matters; combine services
of lobbyists to help their members
Citizen action groups
(public interest groups)
Generally concerned with broad range of interests that
affect the public; relatively well funded; large
memberships allow for larger demonstrations
Single-issue groups
Public interest groups that focus on a single issue
Non-membership groups Include corporations that maintain offices in DC and
many state capitals; also include universities and state
and local governments
Ad hoc associations
Organization of citizens that are generally focused on a
single issue; use letters, phone calls, and
demonstrations to pursue their interests
 Interest groups try to influence through direct contact
with government officials, AKA lobbying
 The contact traditionally occurred in the lobbies of
capitol buildings
 Most lobbyists are former government officials, lawyers,
or public relations experts
 Provide policy makers with information supporting
their groups position
 Public Opinion: the ideas and attitudes a significant
number of Americans hold about government and
political issues
 The diversity of the population contributes to a range of
opinions on many issues
 Citizens communicate with government through
interest groups, letters, and opinion polls
 “A significant number of US citizens” means enough
people to make government officials listen
 Family
 More than 2/3 of adults in the US favor the political
party their parents supported
 Schools
 Education instills knowledge and democratic values
 Peer Groups
 Friends and associates influence an individual’s
opinions
 Economic/Social Status
 Income, age, geographic region, race, and gender help
shape political beliefs
 The Media
 How the media depict groups can help discredit or
reinforce stereotypes
Liberals
Conservatives
 Believe the national
 Believe the government’s
government should be
active helping
individuals and
communities
role should be limited
Most voters identify themselves as
moderates, meaning their beliefs
fall somewhere between liberal and
conservative on most issues
 Opinion Polls measure
public attitudes
 Straw Polls
 Scientific Polls involve
three steps:
 Selecting a sample that
is representative of a
larger group
 Wording the questions
carefully
 Interpreting the results