Interest Groups

Political Parties vs. Interest Groups
Interest Group: Individuals who organize to influence the government’s programs and policies
Political Parties
Interest Groups
1. Nominate candidates to run
for elective office
1. May support certain candidates for
office, but they do not nominate their
own candidates
2. Focus on a broad range of
issues to appeal to a wide range
of the electorate
2. Often take a narrow focus on a
specific issue, such as gun control,
abortion, or the environment
3. Compete for control of the
legislative branch by trying to
win the majority of
the seats in Congress
3. Compete for influence over elected
officials so that the elected officials
decide public policy issues in the
interest group’s favor
People join or create special interest
groups to encourage laws that suit
them. Special interest groups range
in size from one to millions. They
represent businesses, faiths, regions,
or ideologies.
Interest groups alert the
news media to issues and
provide information in an
attempt to influence public
Interest groups advise
members on the policies
and voting records of
politicians so they can
vote for the lawmakers
that support their views.
Interest groups hire lobbyists to
persuade lawmakers to support
the group’s goals and ideas.
Lobbyists alert interest groups
to proposed legislation that
affects them and reports
lawmaker’s positions on key
Lobbyists persuade
political parties to
add interest group’s
issues to the party
platform and arrange
for soft money
contributions to be
made to the party.
Lobbyists develop contacts to
ensure they can reach key lawmakers.
They persuade lawmakers to adopt the
interest group’s views, provide the
information on the effects of specific
legislation and may help write bills.
They sponsor opinion polls to demonstrate
support for an issue. They also help
lawmakers raise campaign funds.
Parties give extra
campaign support
to candidates in
crucial races.
A few well-known interest groups…
Mothers Against Drunk Driving
National Organization for Women
American Association of Retired People
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
National Rifle Association
National Education Association
American Bar Association
American Medical Association
National Abortion Rights Action League
National Right to Life Campaign
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
League of Women Voters * US Chamber of Commerce
Sierra Club * World Wildlife Federation * Human Rights Campaign
ZPG * PETA * Christian Coalition * Common Cause * AFL-CIO
Interest Groups vs. Political Action Committees (PAC)
Political Action Committee: A private group that raises and distributes funds for
use in election campaigns
Interest Groups
1. Often take a narrow focus on a specific
issue, such as gun control, abortion, or
the environment
2. Compete for influence over already
elected officials so that they decide public
policy issues in the interest group’s favor
3. CANNOT give money to candidates
(only influence)
Political Action Committees
1. Often take a narrow focus on a specific
issue, such as business or labor
2. Compete for influence over the
election process, so that candidates
who support the PAC’s issues will get
3. CAN give money to a candidate