An interest group is a group that seeks a collective good, the achievement of
which will not selectively and materially benefit the membership or activists of the
organization. These organizations try to achieve at least some of their goals with
government assistance. The difference between interest groups and political parties is that political parties seek to constitute the government, whereas interest groups try only to influence it. Some of the things that interests groups seek from government are
information that affects the interests of the interest group, influence of the
government policy, goodwill of the administrators who carry out the policy, and symbolic
status. Some of the sources of interest group strength are the size of the interest group, cohesion between the members, geographical distribution, wealth of the members, status of the group, leadership of the group, and program compatibility. Some of the direct techniques for gaining influence are lobbying, private meetings, legislative committees, and bureaucracy. Some indirect techniques are grass roots lobbying, molding public and elite opinion, and coalition building.
Grass roots lobbying is when the constituency of an interest group-a group’s
members, those whom the group serves, friends and allies of the group, or simply those
who can be mobilized whether or not they have a connection to the group-can help in
promoting the group’s position to public officials.
Groups use public relations techniques to shape public opinion as well as the
opinions of policymakers. Ads in newspapers and magazines and on the radio and
television supply information, foster an image, and promote a particular policy. A tactic commonly used by interest groups to influence public opinion is rating members of
Congress. Groups choose a number of votes crucial to their concerns such as abortion,
conservation, or consumer affairs. They then publicize the votes to their members with
the ultimate objective of trying to defeat candidates who vote against their positions.
Coalition building is another form of an indirect lobbying technique. Coalitions
are networks or groups with similar concerns which help individual groups press their
demands. Coalitions demonstrate broad support for an issue and also take advantage of
the different strengths of groups.
The most important function of public interest groups is, to represent the policy
preferences of their constituents. Public interest lobbies form a linkage element between citizens and governmental elites. In lobbying they articulate what they perceive to be the issue positions of certain sectors of society. Public interest groups also play an important role in facilitating the political participation of their members and related attentive publics. By helping to bring new issues to the table, interest groups influence the shape of political agendas.
There are three basic reasons why...