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Learning objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Explain how interest groups differ from political parties
  • Evaluate the different types of interests and what they do
  • Compare public and private interest groups

While the term interest group is not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, the framers were aware that individuals would band together in an attempt to use government in their favor. In Federalist No. 10 , James Madison warned of the dangers of “factions,” minorities who would organize around issues they felt strongly about, possibly to the detriment of the majority. But Madison believed limiting these factions was worse than facing the evils they might produce, because such limitations would violate individual freedoms. Instead, the natural way to control factions was to let them flourish and compete against each other. The sheer number of interests in the United States suggests that many have, indeed, flourished. They compete with similar groups for membership, and with opponents for access to decision-makers. Some people suggest there may be too many interests in the United States. Others argue that some have gained a disproportionate amount of influence over public policy, whereas many others are underrepresented.

Madison’s definition of factions can apply to both interest groups and political parties. But unlike political parties, interest groups do not function primarily to elect candidates under a certain party label or to directly control the operation of the government. Political parties in the United States are generally much broader coalitions that represent a significant proportion of citizens. In the American two-party system, the Democratic and Republican Parties spread relatively wide nets to try to encompass large segments of the population. In contrast, while interest groups may support or oppose political candidates, their goals are usually more issue-specific and narrowly focused on areas like taxes, the environment, and gun rights or gun control, or their membership is limited to specific professions. They may represent interests ranging from well-known organizations, such as the Sierra Club, IBM, or the American Lung Association, to obscure ones, such as the North Carolina Gamefowl Breeders Association. Thus, with some notable exceptions, specific interest groups have much more limited membership than do political parties.

Political parties and interest groups both work together and compete for influence, although in different ways. While interest group activity often transcends party lines, many interests are perceived as being more supportive of one party than the other. The American Conservative Union, Citizens United, the National Rifle Association, and National Right to Life are more likely to have relationships with Republican lawmakers than with Democratic ones. Americans for Democratic Action, Moveon.org, and the Democratic Governors Association all have stronger relationships with the Democratic Party. Parties and interest groups do compete with each other, however, often for influence. At the state level, we typically observe an inverse relationship between them in terms of power. Interest groups tend to have greater influence in states where political parties are comparatively weaker.

Questions & Answers

Can you explain the Stockdale Paradox
Patricia Reply
How the capital market can create a better future for all import and benefit
Egbo Reply
in the dred scott case what did the supreme court decide the Congress had no power to do
Kazi Reply
who was james madison
Ceceilia Reply
Founding Father who fought to add the Bill of Rights to the Constitution he helped write (called the "Father of the Constitution"). He and Jefferson didn't want the federal govt to overpower the states (Democratic-Republican party). Cowrote The Federalist Papers. 4th President of the US (1809-1817).
Aaron
hi
Serah
how are you doing
Bubacarr
hi
Nicole
hello
faithsia
who has the power to declare war
Fernandy Reply
president who is commander in chief
Abu
Adam the president
Talima
are spelled out in Constitution
leticia Reply
What is constituencies
Patrick Reply
is the body of voters who elect their representatives for their area
Ernest
Can you say is the process by which voters who elect their representatives for their area
Lydia
people respresenting Congress
Nicole
but are you sure?
Anna
so does anyone UNDERSTAND the laws of the CITY and the City Council...
Anna
the first Republic political parties
Baby Reply
how call government system in Zambia
esenam Reply
was it Britain that colonialised usa
Temiloluwa Reply
Yes because is in the document of Britain which it cannot be change.
Abu
what is Electoral malpractice
Bailey Reply
it is a practice which is against the rules of electoral activities(electoral commission ).
Abu
Electoral malpractice, is illegal interference with process of an election.
Tina
Clifford constitution of 1922
ABAH Reply
to this textbook which countries have the highest rates of execution?
michael Reply
What are the advantages and disadvantages of having so many levels of subnational governments in the United States? Explain
Nicole Reply
to help in protecting the right of the citizens, in safety purpose also if not many tribulation war and conflict in between the Nations and perhaps the citizens that is we really needs them.
Emmanuel
What are the advantages
maureen
what were the initial issues that led to the introduction of legislation
Benedicta Reply
Do the consideration and bill of rights protect the life and liberty of all Americans?
Benedicta
yes
Emmanuel
yeah
Akuchie

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Source:  OpenStax, American government. OpenStax CNX. Dec 05, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11995/1.15
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