The Role of Interest Groups in the Public Policy Process

TheRole of Interest Groups in the Public Policy Process

Interestgroups can also be referred to as the advocacy groups or pressuregroups (Berry 1). They can be defined as a group of organizedindividuals who share similar goals that aim at influencing thepublic policy process without necessarily aiming to be elected (Berry1). The use of interest groups is the most common way that thecitizens of the United States of America use in order to get theirissues and ideas known to the people in office. All interest groupsshare the same objectives which mainly aim at influencing the publicpolicy for their own good. Sometimes their objectives may be aimed atbenefiting one society, for instance, getting subsidies for farmers,but sometimes they address broader issues such as the problem of airpollution. They mainly achieve their objectives by putting pressureon the policy makers so that their objectives are met. The advocacygroups also act as the watchdogs of the government by watching thepolicies and other decisions they make in order to rate them on howwell or how badly they have used their power (Moe 531). They canlater use this information to monitor the election process by eitherendorsing or rejecting a particular candidate. Both the formal andinformal structures of the American politics hold strong grounds forthe pressure groups. The decentralization of political power to thedifferent states and the localities is one of the things that havegreatly encouraged the emergence of the interest groups (Moe 540).The citizen organizations usually start at the state and the locallevels before growing into national organizations. The Americantradition of the freedom of speech has also been a great agent in theformation of interest groups. This means that the interest groups cansay virtually anything that they feel will affect the policy makingprocess without having to face the law about their ideas. Even thoughmany might view these groups as government policy resistors, thereare some important roles that they play in the policy making process,hence they are important especially to the common citizens.

Roleof the Interest Groups

Almostall interest groups are formed with the objective of fulfilling thesethree functions, advocacy, policy formulation and membership support.Their role in advocacy involves the analyzing of the proposedlegislation, making proposals to the parliamentary committees andseeking to influence the opinion of the general public. When playingthis role, the interest groups may resort to some measures that willhelp their ideas to be taken more seriously by the government. Someof these measures may include the filing of petitions to theparliament, public demonstrations, public submissions, mediacampaigns and the use of advertisement. Sometimes, theseorganizations might go to the extent of trying to influence theelection results in order to get one of their own to the governmentside. This may be done through the endorsement of a parliamentarycandidate, funding the campaigns of a candidate of their choice orthe deployment of a special personnel to overlook the entire campaignprocess for the candidate they want to win the elections.

Theirother role may be policy formulation. Sometimes, the interest groupsmay be more informed than the members of parliament on the other sideof the government. This mainly happens in cases where the groups havehired very qualified policy making researchers and advisors who aremuch better informed about a particular policy. In such a case, theywill suggest their ideas to the government and make sure their ideasare implemented. The interest groups also play the role of membershipsupport. Sometimes they may provide their members with materialbenefits in addition to the advice and information they give them.They make sure of different avenues such as the social media sites toget the opinions of different people from different parts of thecountry and try to incorporate them in their plan of influencing thepublic policy. The three roles that have been mentioned above arejust part of the primary roles of the pressure groups. However, allthe advocacy groups have their own unique secondary roles that theyseek to achieve during the policy process. The interest groups alsoplay the role of education to the general public (Arthur and Munger86). They usually have updated publications that will inform thepublic about the progress that has been made by the government,especially regarding the issues that they care about. For instance,the business interest groups usually publish data about the sectorsof the economy that are most important in economic development. Forexample, the American petroleum institute is an example of anadvocacy group that mainly focuses on the oil business. It usuallyhas a tri-annual report that informs the oil business people inAmerica the status of the oil production and prices in America andthe rest of the world.

Businesseshave a direct influence on the emergence and development of thepressure groups. Large business corporations usually offer financialsupport to these groups so that they can have a bear on the politicaldecisions made. This is probably because most of the policies madeinfluence the economic world either directly or indirectly. Most ofthe interest groups that have been influenced by the support from thebusiness world are labor unions. There are also professionalassociations such as the American Medical Association or the AmericanBar Association that push their ideas for the sake of the values,collective interests and objectives of their profession. Virtuallyevery single profession in America has its very own association. Allthese associations act as a voice for the voiceless in America tomake sure they are considered in the policy process.

Thereare also the intergovernmental groups that represent some specificunits of the government at the national level. These groups do nothave an official position in the United States federal system thatseparates the state and the national government, but they do functionjust like the other types of interest groups (Arthur and Munger 106).They also present their cases to the congress and make their ideasknown to the media. Another type of pressure group is the publicinterest groups such as the civil rights groups or gender equalitygroups. A political scientist, Jeffery Berry defines these groups associeties that support interests that are not directly beneficial toits members, but rather to a particular society as a whole. Theymobilize new issues in a particular political system such as the gayrights, women rights and rights for children and disabled people’srights among other things. The public interest groups generally havefewer financial support compared to other societies, but they usuallyget the most public support.

Inorder to achieve democracy in any society, it is necessary to have asociety that creates new political alternatives that can influencethe political foundation of the government. This will be able tosupport both public and private sector development and prevent theleaders from violating their interests (Moe 543).


BaumgartnerFrank R. and Beth L. Leech: Basicinterests: The importance of groups in politics and in politicalscience.Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998.

DenzauArthur T. and Michael C. Munger &quotLegislators and interestgroups: How unorganized interests get represented.&quot TheAmerican Political Science Review(1986): 89-106.

JeffreyBerry, Lobbying for the People: ThePolitical Behavior of Public Interest Groups: PrincetonUniversity Press, 1977

Moe,Terry M. &quotToward a broader view of interest groups.&quot TheJournal of Politics43.02 (1981): 531-543.