The primary goal of interest groups is to influence government policy, but they also play a number of important roles in American politics.
Interest groups represent their members before government. Often they are the primary link between citizens and their government, as a group’s staff provides a channel of communication between members and their government representatives.
Interest groups also givecitizens another avenue for government participation beyond voting in elections. They organize activities for members, lobby on their behalf, and use donations from members to carry out political activities. If someone feels strongly about an issue, an interest group is afocused way to pursue that interest politically.
Interest groups provide details on their issues to educate lawmakers, bureaucrats, and the public. They use advocacy efforts, publications, hearing testimony, and publicity campaigns to make people aware of policy problems and the group’s proposed solutions. Despite their self-interested perspective on their issues, their expertise in their area of concern often makes them highly in-demand sources of information.Interest groups are frequently responsible for bringing issues to light. They advocate for their issue to be put on the political agenda, which is the list of items politicians pay attention to.
Interest groups make government aware of problems and try to make those problems a priority for attention.
Of course, these groups have their preferred perspectives on issues. And they actively offer these alternatives as solutions to related problems in society.
Finally, interest groups monitor policies that involve their members to make sure the policies are being implemented as intended. Theymay ask for reports, and if they find problems, they may contact the media or work directly with program administrators to make changes. If all else fails, they may go to court to try to force some action.
There are several types of interest groups. The differences among interest groups often revolve around the kind of representation and benefits the group is offering to its members.
Economic groups influence government policy for the benefit of economically motivated members. Examples of economic groups include corporations and business associations, such as the Chamber of Commerce; unions and professional associations, such as the Teamsters and the American Medical Association; and agricultural groups, such as the American Farm Bureau.
Equal opportunity groups promote the civil and economic rights of disadvantaged citizens. Examples of these types of groups include age-related organizations, such as the AARP and the Children’s Defense Fund; race and ethnicity related groups, such as the NAACP and the League of United Latin American Citizens; gender-related groups, such as the National Organization for Women; and groups related to sexual orientation, such as Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAAD).
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