Interest Groups

Faction proliferation

1. More cleavages in society causes more interest groups to form

2. Constitution facilitates interest groups because there are so many levels at which individuals can become involved in government

3. Weakness of political parties helps contribute to strength of interest groups.

Factors in the increase of number and variety of interest group

    1. broad economic developments that create new interests and redefine old ones
    2. Government policy creates groups (i.e. wars create veterans, professional societies being allowed by government to decide who can be a doctor, etc.)
    3. Social movements have increased with good leaders
    4. More activities by government => more interest by factions

Types of Factions and Specifics

Institutional interests: organizations or individuals representing other organizations.

Membership interests: based upon members and their activities.

Incentives to join:

    1. solidary incentives: it is social and fun
    2. material interests: I can gain money or services (ala Costco)
    3. purpose interests: many organizations rely only upon purposive incentive (the appeal of their stated goals (from Ideological Interest Groups)

public-interest lobby: will chiefly benefit non-members

Things that decide who controls the faction

Membership side


Selection of leaders


Movements (are event driven!)

Social movement: a widely shared demand for change. I.e. the civil rights movement, the environmentalist movement. Need not have liberal goals. Includes religious revivals. ARE EVENT DRIVEN

Environmental: Sierra club to the environmental defense fund. Movements often spawn many organizations – the most passionate and extreme are generally few in number. Really began by Silent Spring.

Feminist: League of Women voters. Started in 1920, began with Susan B. Anthony’s vote. Three groups: solidary, purposeful, and material benefit.

Union: began with Haymarket Square incident; really gained steam in the 1930s.


Funds for interest groups

Foundation grants: largest source of money.

Federal Grants and Contracts: federal money to support some project that organization has undertaken.

Direct mail: can directly mail to potential donors.

Bias: interest groups reflect upper-class bias because well off people are more likely than the poor to join, and interest groups representing business and the professions are much more numerous and better financed.

Yet these facts only describe the inputs to the system. Outputs are independence.

Business-oriented groups are divided amongst Themselves.

Most debates, after all, are conflicts within the upper classes – the political elites.


To busy legislators and bureaucrats, information is in short supply.

Lobbyists gather information and present it; sure, it is favorable to their cause, but they need to be both persuasive and creditable

Lying is ineffective because creditability matters in the long-term

Information is more powerful when on a narrow issue

Political cue: signal telling an official what values are at stake for an issue. Some legislators want to be on the liberal side, some on the conservative.

The outsider strategy: get the public involved.

Getting non-members to do work


Eric Jonas's 1998-1999 AP American Government Notes
This material copyright Eric Jonas, 1999.
These notes have been taken from American Government, 7th edition, by Wilson and DiIulio, and from in-class lecture by Mr. Greg Sandmeyer at Timberline High School.