Sociology Index


Interest groups are group of individuals and organizations linked together for the purpose of active promotion of particular values and objectives. Interest groups are usually associated with the political process through which they seek support and resources for their objectives.

Interest groups encompass those with issue specific goals (eg: opposition to nuclear energy) as well as those seeking to regularly defend and advance their goals and objectives. Pluralist theory upholds the view that political process and political decision making is best thought of as consisting of open and competitive interest group interaction and advocacy within a framework of democracy.

Interest Group Politics From a Comparative Perspective - Joseph Galaskiewicz, Department of Sociology University of Minnesota - Two models of interest group behavior are outlined and discussed. The cooptation model finds organized interest groups establishing informal contacts with city officials and achieving political favors through these informal channels.

The petition model finds interest groups confronting public officials in the public arena securing favors from city government by threatening to use their resources to build oppositional coalitions. Our goal was to see if structural conditions in a community make one or the other strategy more successful. Our findings suggest that cooptation is more common in cities with less complex economic and social structures, but petition is more common in cities with more complex structures.

The Creation and Development of an Interest Group: Life at the Intersection of Big Business and Education Reform - John W. Sipple, Dartmouth College 
Cecil G. Miskel, Timothy M. Matheney, C. Philip Kearney, University of Michigan 
Responding to calls from the president of the United Sates and the Business Roundtable, business leaders have become increasingly involved in setting the education reform agenda. Using five interest group theories and longitudinal data; the authors examined the formation, agenda setting, and maintenance of an organization of business leaders. Moderate support was found for each of the theories. Analyses further revealed that policy interests and to a lesser degree, functional interests were important to the formation and activity of the interest groups.

An Application of Herd Theory to Interest Group Behavior 
Kennith G. Hunter, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Lamar University, and the University of South Dakota
Herd theory may be useful for understanding the activities of interest groups in the American states. If interest groups are as powerful as most of the literature claims, it should become increasingly easy to statistically explain certain public policy outcomes. The analysis shows this is not the case, and therefore a reexamination of interest group behaviors may be in order. To a large extent, the hiring of lobbyists by interest groups does not seem to result in a greater level of explained variance. If the number of interest groups in a category pressures administrators, such a reaction may be misplaced.

Outside the Issue Niche - The Multidimensionality of Interest Group Identity 
Michael T. Heaney, University of Chicago 
Interest groups care deeply about, and struggle to shape, their identities on Capitol Hill. A group’s identity is what makes it unique and separates it from other organizations in the advocacy community. Previous research has argued that interest group identities are formed by creating exclusive niches over narrow policy issues, but this research has neglected the degree to which groups depend on representation, ideology, and advocacy techniques in establishing their uniqueness. The author argues that interest group identities are formed in multiple dimensions, with issues serving as an important, but nondominant, basis for identification. Qualitative and quantitative methods are used to analyze data from interviews with representatives of 168 national interest groups working on health care.

Citizen Groups and the Changing Nature of Interest Group Politics in America - JEFFREY M. BERRY 
The rise of liberal citizen groups that began in the 1960s has had a strong impact on the evolution of interest group advocacy. The success of these liberal organizations was critical in catalyzing the broader explosion in the numbers of interest groups and in causing the collapse of many subgovernments. New means of resolving policy conflicts had to be established to allow for the participation of broader, more diverse policy communities. Citizen groups have been particularly important in pushing policymakers to create new means of structuring negotiations between large numbers of interest group actors. The greater participation of citizen groups, the increased numbers of all kinds of interest groups, and change in the way policy is made may be making the policymaking process more democratic.

Interest Group Participation in Rule Making: A Decade of Change 
Scott R. Furlong, University of Wisconsin–Green Bay, Cornelius M. Kerwin, American University 
Ten years ago we completed a survey that examined interest group participation in the rule-making process. At the time, it was the first major study to examine the role of interest groups in one of the most important policy-making venues in our democratic system. This article reexamines interest group participation in rule making a decade later. We focus most of the study on comparisons in how organizations access rule-making agencies, what techniques are used to lobby agencies, and the perceived effectiveness of these techniques by the organizations themselves. In addition, given the relatively new phenomenon of e–rule making and the increase of other electronic communication techniques, we open an examination of interest groups use of these forms of communications and their implications. We find that rule making continues to be a primary concern of organizations trying to influence federal public policy, even as they have focused more on campaign and grassroots activities. In some ways, these efforts are more important now than they were ten years ago.

Grassroots Involvement in Interest Group Decision Making 
CHRISTINE L. DAY, University of New Orleans 
Interest groups' increased use of centrally managed mass communications technologies has reduced opportunities for social networking among group members. This study examines the relationship between organizational democracy, or rank-and-file participation in decision making, and two indicators of social network opportunities: existence of local chapters and extent of direct-mail usage. Control variables include membership incentives, organizational resources, group age and size, and competition with other groups for members. Multivariate analyses of two interest group survey data sets, using ordinal logit, indicate that social network organizations are no more likely to involve their members in decision making than are centralized direct-mail organizations.

Interest Group Size Dynamics and Policymaking 
VJOLLCA SADIRAJ, Georgia State University - JAN TUINSTRA, FRANS VAN WINDEN, University of Amsterdam
Abstract: We present a dynamic model of endogenous interest group sizes and policymaking. The model integrates 'top-down' (policy) and 'bottom-up' (individual and social-structural) influences on the development of interest groups. Comparative statics results show that the standard assumption of fixed-sized interest groups can be very misleading. Furthermore, dynamic analysis of the model demonstrates that reliance on equilibrium results can be misleading as well since equilibria may not be stable. In fact, complicated dynamics may emerge naturally, leading to erratic and path dependent time patterns for policy and interest group sizes.

Interest Group Lobbying and Corporate Strategy - THOMAS P. LYON, Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the Univ. of Michigan, JOHN W. MAXWELL, Kelley School of Business 
Abstract: We study three corporate non-market strategies designed to influence the lobbying behavior of other special interest groups: 1) "astroturf," in which the firm covertly subsidizes a group with similar views to lobby when it normally would not, 2) the "bear hug," in which the firm overtly pays a group to alter its lobbying activities, and 3) self-regulation, in which the firm voluntarily limits the potential social harm from its activities. All three strategies reduce the informativeness of lobbying, and all reduce the payoff of the public decision maker. We show that the decision maker would benefit by requiring the public disclosure of funds spent on astroturf lobbying, but the availability of alternative influence strategies limits the impact of such a policy.

Brokering Health Policy: Coalitions, Parties, and Interest Group Influence 
Michael T. Heaney, University of Florida 
Assuming a position as broker between disconnected interests is one way for an interest group to influence the making of federal health policy. This study demonstrates how groups use their connections with political parties and lobbying coalitions to augment their brokerage positions and enhance their influence over policy making. Evidence is drawn from statistical analysis of 263 interviews with health policy elites and a qualitative case study of the debate over the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003. The results explain, in part, how interest groups play their brokerage roles as dispersed actors in a decentralized system, rather than as central mediators that intervene in a wide range of policy disputes.

Sweet-Talking the Fourth Branch: The Influence of Interest Group Comments on Federal Agency Rulemaking - Susan Webb Yackee, University of Michigan 
Students of politics have identified a variety of actors who appear to influence the federal bureaucracy's implementation of public policy, including Congress, the president, and interest groups. These lines of research, however, have often portrayed interest groups as actors with indirect influence (who, for example, work through or with Congress), rather than assessing the direct influence of interest groups on bureaucratic policy outputs. I conduct a test of direct interest group influence by analyzing an original data set composed of 1,444 interest group comments in reaction to forty federal agency rules. I find, contrary to the expectations of the extant literature, that the formal participation of interest groups during rulemaking can, and often does, alter the content of policy within the "fourth branch" of government. I conclude that those who voice their preferences during the notice and comment period rulemaking are often able to change government policy outputs to better match their preferences.