The Role of Special Interest Groups in American Politics.

Essay by velocity86 November 2005

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Like political parties, pressure groups can be considered another system that connects the citizen more directly to government. However, at the same instant there are marked differences in both composition and function that define interest groups as different entities from larger political parties. According to V.O. Key Jr. in a composition appropriately entitled Pressure Groups; pressure groups "Ordinarily... concern themselves with only a narrow range of policies;" and unlike the goals of political parties, their intentions are to "influence the content of public policy rather than the results of elections." Nevertheless, it is a realized fact that special interest groups with a mass membership are considered to be congregations with enough power to affect election results and "pressure party leaders, legislators, and others in official position to act in accord with their wishes..."

Although it is accepted that pressure groups indeed pressure politics in certain directions, it is quite a different task to describe how pressure groups link public opinion to government action.

Apparently the driving force behind action is not as cut and dry as the image of "the lobbyist who speaks for a united following, determined in its aims and prepared to reward its friends and punish its enemies at the polls." In reality, it may appear that spokesmen of mass-membership pressure groups are "unrepresentative of the opinions of their members." This perception, however, does not take into account the wide potential for variability in policy opinion that can occur within large groups. On the contrary, it is not a "wicked betrayal" or a "deliberate departure from the mass mandate;" it is more likely that there are other theorems with which to explain this phenomenon. Alike to all other human groups, " not fall into blacks and whites." In Keys' essay, he attempts to hypothesize that there...