Interest Groups: A Natural Phenomenon
– In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote “ no country of the
world has the principle of association been more successfully used or applied to a
greater multitude of objectives than in America.”
– Why have interest groups been so successful in the United States?
• Interest Groups and Social Movements
• Why so many?
Why Do Americans Join Interest Groups?
– Free rider problem.
• Solidarity Incentives
• Material Incentives
• Purposive Incentives
– Retaining members
Interest-Group System
• Economic groups
– Corporations
– Labor unions
– Farm groups
– Professional associations
Economic Interest Groups
– Business interest groups (e.g. U.S. Chamber of Commerce)
– Agricultural Interest Groups (American Farm Bureau Federation)
– Labor interest groups (American Federation of Labor and the Congress of
Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) )
– Public Employee Unions (e.g. American Federation of State, County and
Municipal Employees)
– Interest Groups of Professionals (American Bar Association)
– The Unorganized Poor
Other Types of Interest Groups
– Environmental Groups
– Public Interest Groups
• Nader Organizations
• Other such groups include Common Cause and the League of Women Voters
– Single-issue focused groups (AARP, etc.)
– Foreign Governments
Declining Union Membership
What Makes an Interest Group Powerful?
– Size and Resources
– Leadership
– Cohesiveness
Interest Group Strategies
– Direct Techniques
• Lobbying
• Publishing the voting records of members of the legislature
• Building alliances
• Campaign assistance
– Indirect Techniques
• Generating public pressure
• Using constituents as lobbyists
• Unconventional forms of pressure (marches, rallies, and demonstrations)
Inside Lobbying: Seeking Influence
• Webs of influence
– Iron triangles
– Issue networks
Regulating Lobbyists -The Reforms of 1995
Interest Groups and Representative Democracy
– Interest Groups: Elitist or Pluralist?