Chapter 9 Interest Groups: Organizing for Influence
This chapter looks at the degree to which various interest in American society are represented through
Argument: economically powerful groups dominate the system, an issue deemphasized by pluralist
claims. Begin with explanation of various types of interest groups
What is the impact of the lobbying process by interest groups on national policy?
Interest groups have policy goals (to further their interests)
Definition of interest group: a set of individuals organized to promote a shared political concern
Tenents of Pluralism:
Political parties are different from interest groups. Parties build coalitions by addressing wide
range of issues, groups focus on narrow set of issues of immediate concern
Pluralism holds that society’s interests are represented mainly by groups. These interest benefit
from organized group activity
The rise of single-issue politics combined with decline of political parties has served to increase
the power of interest groups. Group politics may result in the ascendancy of narrow interests
which prove harmful to the larger society
I. Interest Group System
a. In the 1830s Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that “the principle of association” was nowhere
more evident than in America. This description stills holds. Americans are more likely
than citizens of other nations to join organized groups. But not all are interest groups.
We have a tradition of free association.
b. Nation’s political structure contributes to group action as well. Because of federalism
and separation of powers, groups have multiple points of entry through which to
The success of any interest group is directly related to its ability to organize effectively. Economic
interests tend to be very well organized for the following reasons:
Many economic interests naturally form into small groups and hence have an
advantage over large groups as each member of a small group stands to benefit
substantially from participation in a collective effort.
Economic groups offer members a powerful incentive for membership in the form of
private (individual) goods, which accrue benefits to members exclusively; non-
economic groups offer public (collective) goods to their members and thus suffer from the free-rider problem.
Free rider problem: individuals can obtain the good even if they do not contribute
to the group’s effort. NPR as example. Although NPR’s programs are funded primarily
through listeners’ donations, those who do not contribute can listen to the programs.
Economic groups have the advantage of ready access to resources, such as money from
profits or dues that facilitate organization.
These groups include the following:
Business groups are numerous and have a size advantage over many other groups. They
concentrate their efforts on issues directly affecting business interests.
Labor groups promote policies that benefit workers in general and union members in
particular. The largest represent service and public employees today rather than skilled
and unskilled laborers.
Agricultural groups consist of general and specialty farm associations.
Most professions have lobbying associations; an example of a powerful professional
group is the American Medical Association.
Citizens’ (non-economic) interest groups emphasize purposive incentives—opportunities to
promote a cause in which the members believe. They offer collective or public goods as
incentives and thus have a free-rider problem. Citizens’ interest groups include several types:
Public-interest groups attempt to act in the broad interests of society as a whole.
Single-interest groups are organized to influence policy in just one area.
Ideological groups are concerned with a broad range of policies from a general
philosophical or value perspective.
There are also lobbying groups formed to represent foreign and sub-national
governments. These groups have increased sharply in number in recent years, as have the other
citizens’ (non-economic) interest groups.
II. Inside Lobbying: Seeking Influence through Official Contacts
Inside lobbying refers to efforts of groups to develop and maintain close (inside) contacts with
Inside lobbying focuses on gaining access to public officials, providing them with vital information, and expressing group concerns in order to promote the group’s perspective.
Money is an essential ingredient of inside lobbying due to the hi