groups v. Political Parties
pervasiveness of interest groups in American
group: "an organized body of individuals who share
some political goals and who try to influence public
from a "political party":
OF POLICY FOCUS: Interest groups are narrower
groups have narrower goals, which are based on the
special interests that are common to those in the
they advocate policy positions that promote their
special concerns, interest groups are said to
engage in INTEREST ARTICULATION.
articulate an interest is to express it
on the other hand, have broader policy goals, based
on the diverse interests of the coalition of people
who support the party.
parties must somehow balance diverse, and often
conflicting, interests of people in their
coalition, they are said to be INTEREST
aggregate interests is to collect and
OF POLITICAL FOCUS: Interest groups are broader
groups operate at all stages of the political
process -- elections, policy-making, policy
concentrate on the electoral process and on the
allocation of offices within government after
fact, the most distinguishing characteristic of
parties is that they nominate candidates to run as
AVOWED representatives of the party.
an "interest group" were to do this, it would
become a political party by definition.
parties are more aggregative of interests than political
parties in other countries.
- In the
U.S. multiple, often conflicting interests are
collected and balanced off within the Democratic and
European governments with multiparty systems, voters
have a choice of parties that articulate interests of
specific groups of voters.
Anglo-American democracies, which all tend to have
two-party systems: UK, Canada, New Zealand,
Australia--are also aggregative.
these countries, voters tend to know in advance of
elections which interests will be represented in
multiparty countries, it is uncommon for a single
party to control the government after an
government must be formed from coalitions of
don't know in advance which parties will join to form
a government, so voters don't know what interests will
be represented in government when they
parties offer voters fewer choices, but the choices
are linked more directly to what government does after
parties are also less powerful than political parties in
don't control nominations of their own
can't even collect money to support campaigns without
cries to curtail "soft money"
- These two
characteristics of American parties--broadly aggregative
nature and lack of internal power--have consequences for
parties fit the pluralist rather than the majoritarian
model of democracy.
are only additional players on the interest group
offer groups political access, but access does not
guarantee political benefits.
when in control of the legislative and executive
branches, American parties do not fit the model of
"responsible party government" and are able to
carry through legislative programs.
are better positioned to block legislative programs
than to carry them out.
classification of interest groups and examples:
(e.g., National Association of
(National Education Association)
senior citizens, women, civil rights, (blacks, Jews,
interest (Common Cause)
(Moral Majority, People for the American
groups (Pro- and Anti-Abortion groups)
- Where do
interest groups operate in the American political
Groups in Europe
branch--origin of term "lobby"
branch--including the bureaucracy
branch--through arguments before the
- Differences between Europe and the US:
- Membership in voluntary groups is less common
- Governmental policies are more extensive
- Many cities sponsor orchestras
- Lions Clubs don't clean up highways
- Most interest groups are organized in hierarchical
- National or "peak" associations are prominent
- Many maintain links with political parties
- Interest groups work on parties, not on individual
- There are no PACs
- Interest groups don't rate legislators
- Slomp, p. 81: "In short, neither the
govenrment nor the parliament is an open market where
all kinds of pressure groups compete for
- Public policy reflects a business-labor-government
- Making public policy through frequent meetings of
peak business groups, peak labor groups is called
- The involvement of a select number of national
organizations in formulation of government
- Interest aggregation occurs at this stage in
- Public policy in the US is made in a pluralist
free-for-all, in which political parties collide with
numerous interest groups acting in their own