What Is An Interest Group;8 Types of Interest Groups

An interest group is in most cases an advantage group; it is to an individual’s advantage to join. It is an organized body that is supposed to look after the interests of its members. Interest groups are made up of people who share common traits. attitudes, beliefs, and/or objectives, and who organize to promote and protect these interests. Organized groups have by-laws, formal membership requirements, annual meetings. and elected officers: they provide information and other services to members and maintain a communication flow through such things as newsletters that include explanations of the organization’s objectives and the efforts to achieve these objectives.


The twentieth century has witnessed a rapid increase in the number of interest groups. Two reasons are (1) functional specialization leading to the evolution of more specialized groups (such as the General Confederation of Beet-Growers in France and the Milk Producers Association in the United States), and (2) the fact that governments throughout the world are taking on more and more activities and responsibilities.

As the number of people allowed to participate legally (usually through enfranchisement) in politics increased and the scope of government activities expanded throughout society, it was natural that organizations would be created to respond to the new conditions. Interest groups developed as one instrument of mass political behavior in “urbanizing-industrializing-democratizing- societies. They also are found in many developing countries.

Regardless of the stage of industrialization urbanization, the emergence of masses of people in different types of politically relevant behavior has brought forth corresponding organizations. Organized interest groups also are called secondary associations, to distinguish them from primary, face-to-face associations. such as family, schoolmates, or fraternity or sorority.

What Is Interest Group; 8 Types of Interest Group

We will discuss three interest-group typologies so that students can be aware of some of the different ways interest groups are classified and analyzed.

Classification by Type and Scope One method of classifying groups is according to the type and scope of interests they speak for. The most common is the restrictive interest group, which speaks principally for the specific interests of its members: The National Rifle Association, Real Estate Brokers Association, and the State Cattlemen’s Association are examples of this. However, numerous interest groups, among them the AFL-CIO and the National Association of Manufacturers, have come to take public positions on matters of general concern, such as foreign aid, the United Nations. and civil rights.

These groups can be classified as permanent, multi-issue interest groups that promote the specific self-interests of members as well as broader interests they believe will benefit not only their members but most of society. Another fairly common phenomenon on the political scene is the single-issue group that emerges in response to a controversial public question. Often, ad hoc groups will organize to sup-port or oppose specific bond issues or urban renewal projects. Others are of a more permanent nature.

They have had their greatest growth in the United States but are expanding rapidly in most postindustrial societies. These single-cause groups are devoted uncompromisingly to supporting or opposing such causes as abortion, wo-men’s rights, tax reduction, and nuclear power plants, and are currently a growing force on the American political scene.

5 Anomic interest groups are spontaneous, immediate-action oriented. Riots, demonstrations, strikes, and the early stages of a revolution are characteristic of their tactics. They often are alienated, and spontaneously respond to a precipitant, whether it is a speaker or the arrest of an individual. Many of the 1978 Iranian dem-onstrations against the Shah were anomic, at least in the initial stages.

6. Non-association interest groups are categorical groups, people who share one or more characteristics in common but are not formally organized as such. Examples of these include ethnic or racial, kinship, geographic location, social class (landowners), religion, sex, and age groups. These groups are represented informally and intermittently through village or family heads, individual representatives, or cliques. An unofficial spokesperson for a group of manufacturers in a developing country who export a large percentage of their products may complain to the ministry of foreign trade that the government is not providing enough assistance in finding new markets or is not underwriting the travel expenses required to attend trade fairs. A group of local religious leaders may ask a town official to help build or maintain a mosque, church, or religious school.

7. Institutional interest groups originally came into being to perform functions other than interest articulation. Presumably these groups were the agents of the policy makers and it was not intended that they spend part of their energy advancing their own interests. Examples include the army, bureaucracy, schools, and church. These groups have certain advantages, among them a professionally staffed organization with a longer history than most other groups in society. Because of the important functions these groups perform (national security, ad-ministration, education), many of them traditionally have been close to the centers of power.

These groups commonly are assumed to dominate interest articulation in the developing world. Frequently it is believed that the interests skillfully articulated by institutional interest groups are narrowly self-serving and serve primarily to enhance the position of one segment of an already too powerful oligarchy.

8. Associational interest groups are specialized organizations who have interest articulation as a principal function. They are characteristic of political systems in which some degree of autonomous input is permitted. These groups are well-organized, with a full-time professional staff who have regular procedures for influencing public policy. Examples include trade unions, farm organizations, business associations, professional groups such as the American Medical Association, and promotional groups discussed previously, like Common Cause.

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