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Learning objectives

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

  • Analyze how interest groups provide a means for political participation
  • Discuss recent changes to interest groups and the way they operate in the United States
  • Explain why lower socioeconomic status citizens are not well represented by interest groups
  • Identify the barriers to interest group participation in the United States

Interest groups offer individuals an important avenue for political participation. Tea Party protests, for instance, gave individuals all over the country the opportunity to voice their opposition to government actions and control. Likewise, the Occupy Wall Street movement also gave a voice to those individuals frustrated with economic inequality and the influence of large corporations on the public sector. Individually, the protestors would likely have received little notice, but by joining with others, they drew substantial attention in the media and from lawmakers ( [link] ). While the Tea Party movement might not meet the definition of interest groups presented earlier, its aims have been promoted by established interest groups. Other opportunities for participation that interest groups offer or encourage include voting, campaigning, contacting lawmakers, and informing the public about causes.

An image of the back a person wearing a jacket. A patch on the jacket reads “I can’t afford a lobbyist”.
In 2011, an Occupy Wall Street protestor highlights that the concerns of individual citizens are not always heard by those in the seats of power. (credit: Timothy Krause)

Group participation as civic engagement

Joining interest groups can help facilitate civic engagement, which allows people to feel more connected to the political and social community. Some interest groups develop as grassroots movement     s , which often begin from the bottom up among a small number of people at the local level. Interest groups can amplify the voices of such individuals through proper organization and allow them to participate in ways that would be less effective or even impossible alone or in small numbers. The Tea Party is an example of a so-called astroturf movement    , because it is not, strictly speaking, a grassroots movement. Many trace the party’s origins to groups that champion the interests of the wealthy such as Americans for Prosperity and Citizens for a Sound Economy. Although many ordinary citizens support the Tea Party because of its opposition to tax increases, it attracts a great deal of support from elite and wealthy sponsors, some of whom are active in lobbying. The FreedomWorks political action committee (PAC), for example, is a conservative advocacy group that has supported the Tea Party movement. FreedomWorks is an offshoot of the interest group Citizens for a Sound Economy, which was founded by billionaire industrialists David H. and Charles G. Koch in 1984.

According to political scientists Jeffrey Berry and Clyde Wilcox , interest groups provide a means of representing people and serve as a link between them and government.

See in general Jeffrey M. Berry and Clyde Wilcox. 2008. The Interest Group Society . 5th ed. New York: Routledge.
Interest groups also allow people to actively work on an issue in an effort to influence public policy. Another function of interest groups is to help educate the public. Someone concerned about the environment may not need to know what an acceptable level of sulfur dioxide is in the air, but by joining an environmental interest group, he or she can remain informed when air quality is poor or threatened by legislative action. A number of education-related interests have been very active following cuts to education spending in many states, including North Carolina, Mississippi, and Wisconsin, to name a few.

Questions & Answers

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
how do we answer government questions
Comfort Reply
by following all the due processes
Emmanuel
how many types of pre_ colonial political system do we have in Nigeria
Israel Reply
3
nkama
we 3 which are yoruba,hausa, Igbo
Israel
3
Ibrahim
opening day in the house. what is the speaker's first duty
Gabriel Reply
what is bill of right?
Dyutoe Reply
first 10 amendments to the Constitution
Ruthie
a bill of right in the United States,bill of right is the first tan amendment to the Constitution.
Israel
what prevented the equal rights Amendment from being ratified?
Darhel Reply
why some countries adopts written constitution
Paschal Reply
because it is documented
Comfort
what part of our government is based on parliament
SonIa Reply
what important political idea came from Thomas Hobbes
SonIa
Thomas Hobbes who is he
SonIa
what is democracy
Haliru Reply
government of the people by the people and for the people
Emmanuel
what is Constitution
Joy Reply
What's separation of power in government?
Fortune Reply
What's political parties?
Fortune
What's Political apathy
Fortune
political parties can be defined as a group of people who share a common interest
Waris
political apathy it can be defined by act of not having Interest in any politics
Waris
political parties are organised group of citizens,acting as a political unit and through the use of their voting power trys to control the government.
Jasper
what are the broad purposes of government
Slande Reply

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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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