Chapter 6: The Politics of Interest Groups

A. The majoritarian model holds that the government should do what the majority of the public wants;

B. Pluralistic model argues that the public as a whole seldom shows clear, consistent opinions on public issues;

Democracy is at work when the opinions of these groups clash openly and fairly over government policies;

This model is more relevant to the United States;

a. This is because we have a pluralistic society;
b. The United States is a nation of nations and is made up of racial, religious, political, economic, and professional groups;

1. Size

a. The larger the group the better the chance to make its influence felt
b. One example is the AFL-CIO

2. Degree of unity

a. If there is considerable unity in the group, it can act decisively even if it is small
b. One example is the NRA

3. Organization

4. Money

5. Leadership

a. Characteristics of a good leader are a brilliant mind, charismatic, reputation for getting things done, giving and receiving favors, and make friends easily; self-confidence, integrity, vision, optimism, stamina
b. Having a good leader is very important

6. Well defined goals

a. If the goals are poorly defined, the above mentioned will be useless
b. Goals give direction to activities

B. Interest groups serve several important roles

1. Representation

a. Represent people before their government
b. Articulate their members' concerns, presenting them directly and forcefully in political forum

2. Preparation

a. They provide a means by which like-minded citizens can pool their resources and channel their energies into collective political action
b. People band together because government listens more to a group than an individual

3. Education

a. Give only their side of the "facts"
b. They do bring more information out into the open for digestion and evaluation by the people

4. Agenda building

a. Use this process to bring new issues into political limelight
b. Make government aware of problems through their advocacy, then try to see to it that something is done to solve them

5. Program monitoring

a. They follow government programs important to their constituents, keeping abreast of developments in Washington and in the local communities where policies are implemented
b. When problems arise, push administrators to resolve in ways that promote the group's goals

1. Economic interest groups (business, labor, agriculture) the most important, powerful group in American Politics;

a. Business protects, promotes, and represents the interests of business

1). Chamber of Commerce promotes small business
2). National Association of Manufacturers promotes large business

b. Labor favors laws that favor workers

1). The AFL-CIO is the dominant spokesman for labor groups
2). Teamsters
3). United Auto Workers

c. Agricultural tries to protect farmers

1). National Grange
2). American Farm Bureau Federation (Texas Farm Bureau)
3). National Farmers Union (Texas Farmers Union)

2. Professional - there are over 500 at the national level

a. All different professions have interest groups that protect them

b. American Medical Association has succeeded at defeating any bill that tries to provide public insurance programs

c. American Bar Association is strong because of the quality of members and their money

d. National Education Association

3. Religious and racial

a. Religious groups favor Protestants, Catholics, and Jews especially

1). National Council of Churches of Christ
2). Knights of Colombus
3). American Jewish Committee

b. Racial

1). Blacks

a). NAACP tries to protect civil rights
b). Urban League tries to find employment opportunities
c). Black Panthers
d). Push

2). Mexican Americans

a). League of United Latin American Citizens LULAC
b). PASSO - Political Association of Spanish-Speaking Organization
c). MAYO

4. Civic

a. League of Women Voters
b. Council on Foreign Relations
c. Texas Research League

5. Veterans

a. American Legion
b. Veterans of Foreign Wars

6. PIGs (public interest groups) represent interests of the collective and over all community.  Public Interest Groups have become major players in the state and national politics.


a. Common Cause, one of the best-known "good government" groups, works for campaign finance reform, code of ethics in government, and open congressional and administrative proceedings

b. ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union)

c. MADD--SADD (Mother's against Drunk Drivers) (Students against Drunk Drivers)

d. Ralph Nader

A. Electoral activities:

PAC's endorsement of political candidates

B. Litigations:

Engage in legal actions concerning the constitutionality and the meanings of various laws

C. Direct action:

Embraces a wide variety of activities


  1. Political protest
  2. A protest or demonstration, such as picketing or marching, designed to draw media attention
  3. Passive restrictions and mass demonstrations

D. Lobbying

1. Most important means to achieve goals

2. Purpose is to communicate with and try to influence the decisions of governmental officials; mostly the legislative branch but the executive and court systems are often used

3. Direct lobbying

a. Personal contact with policymakers
b. Testifying at committee hearings when a bill is before Congress

4. Grassroots lobbying

a. Letter-writing campaigns to representative
b. Political protest

5. Information campaigns

a. Organized efforts to gain public backing by bringing groups views to the public attention
b. Public relations: Public speakers, pamphlets, handouts, newspaper and magazine articles

6. Coalitions

a. Coalition building, in which several organizations band together for the purpose of lobbying

Multiple Choice Questions

Web Links
Chapter 5: The Politics of Interest Groups
Texas Ethics Commission
Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
Mothers Against Drunk Driving
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
The Republic of Texas
Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter
Texas State Teachers Association
Texas Trial Lawyers Association