Interest group

Interest group

An interest group (also advocacy group, lobby group, pressure group or special interest group) is an organized collection of people who seek to influence political decisions.

Types of groups


Sectional groups represent the interests of their members. They include:

*business groups, such as the Confederation of British Industry;
*professional bodies, such as the British Medical Association; and
*trade unions.

In the course of representing the interest of their members these groups are often active participants in the political process. They may have both well defined political agendas and the financial resources necessary to exert broad influence on the political and regulatory process; utilizing direct lobbying, letter-writing campaigns, and voter turnout efforts during elections.

Promotional or single-issue groups

Promotional or single-issue groups (also known as cause or attitude groups) seek to influence policy in a particular area, such as the environment (Greenpeace), gun laws (National Rifle Association), the protection of birds (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), or animal rights (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). These tend to be aligned toward a political ideology or seek influence in specific policy areas.

'Fire brigade'

'Fire brigade' groups lobby on a specific issue such as War in Iraq or the Poll Tax. They usually disband as soon as the issue has been resolved.

Benefits and incentives

The general theory is that individuals must be enticed with some type of benefit to join an interest group. [John R. Wright "Interest Groups and Congress, Lobbying, Contributions, and Influence" pg. 19-22.] The reason for this is that individuals do not need to be a member of a particular interest group to reap the benefits of that group. For instance, an interest group dedicated to improving farming standards will fight for the general goal of improving farming for every farmer, even those who are not members of that particular interest group. So there is no real incentive to join an interest group and pay dues if they will receive that benefit anyway. [Mancur Olson, The Logic of Collective Action (Harvard U. Press, 1971)pp.111-131.] Interest groups must receive dues and contributions from its members in order to accomplish its agenda. While every individual in the world would benefit from a cleaner environment, that Environmental protection interest group does not, in turn, receive monetary help from every individual in the world. [John R. Wright "Interest Groups and Congress, Lobbying, Contributions, and Influence" pg. 19-21.]

Selective material benefits are benefits that are usually given in monetary benefits. For instance, if an interest group gives a material benefit to their member, they could give them travel discounts, free meals at certain restaurants, or free subscriptions to magazines, newspapers, or journals. [Olson, "The Logic of Collective Action" pg. 133-134.] Many trade and professional interest groups tend to give these types of benefits to their members. A selective solidary benefit is another type of benefit offered to members or prospective members of an interest group. These incentives involve benefits like "socializing congeniality, the sense of group membership and identification, the status resulting from membership, fun and conviviality, the maintenance of social distinctions, and so on. [Peter B. Clark and James Q. Wilson, "Incentive Systems: A Theory of Organizations" "Administrative Science Quarterly" 6 (1961): pg. 134-135.]

An expressive incentive is another basic type of incentive or benefit offered to being a member of an interest group. People who join an interest group because of expressive benefits likely joined to express an ideological or moral value that they believe in. Some include free speech, civil rights, economic justice, or political equality. To obtain these types of benefits, members would simply pay dues, donate their time or money to get a feeling of satisfaction from expressing a political value. Also, it would not matter if the interest group achieved their goal, but these members would be able to say they helped out in the process of trying to obtain these goals, which is the expressive incentive that they got in the first place. [Robert H. Salisbury, "An Exchange Theory of Interest Groups." "Midwest Journal of Political Science" 13 (1969): pg 1-32.] The types of interest groups that rely on expressive benefits or incentives would be environmental groups and groups who claim to be lobbying for the public interest. [John R. Wright "Interest Groups and Congress, Lobbying, Contributions, and Influence" pg. 19-21.]

A solidary incentive is when the rewards for participation are socially derived and created out of the act of association.

Interest groups around the world

*Lobbying in the United States
*Pressure groups in the United Kingdom
*Lobbying at the European Union

ee also

*Client politics



*James Q. Wilson, "Political Organization."

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