Interest groups represent a collective opinion of like-minded people who want to be heard. They differ in their foundation, as some of these groups are created by professionals, by people who share world views, such as environmental protection, or by companies who seek to benefit from changing policies (“Influence & lobbying,” n.d.). The primary method through which interest groups influence elections is lobbying. Outside of direct funding, such groups can affect elections by running advertisements and campaigns in support of their selected candidate (“Influence & lobbying,” n.d.). These groups’ ideologies are being reflected in the policies that were made by people who are supported by their members, directly improving the lives of those who share their interests.
For example, the National Rifle Association (NRA) is one of the largest interest groups in the United States. That has five million members and makes millions of dollars in donations during election campaigns (CBC, 2020). Politicians who receive the NRA’s donations are expected to vote against gun control laws, which was the case during the 2012 attempt to expand background checks (CBC, 2020). Another curious case is the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), whose support shapes the political landscape in the country. Jenkins (2019) states that the group does not “endorse candidates or contribute to their campaigns.” Instead, this group’s goal is to connect candidates and its members to address issues that are viewed as critical by AARP (Jenkins, 2019). Both groups promote the interests of their members, despite using different tactics.
Political parties represent different common views on all crucial topics for society and allow their members to promote socially essential topics that are seen as critical for the country. They provide candidates for elections, ensure fairness of selection, and help avoid stagnation in views. In the United States, Republicans and Democrats have coexisted for over 150 years and continue to adopt diametrically opposite points of view on social, economic, and political issues (Barone, 2019). There is a deep link between economic stability and political parties, as their rise to power can be addressed to their ability to influence outcomes by swaying the opinion of the majority towards the desired outcome. Once political circumstances put the two parties’ stability, they tend to adapt their views to ensure survival over past priorities (Barone, 2019). Ever since the Republican dominance has stopped in the 1930s, this struggle continues to cause both parties to select opposite opinions and sway the public to their side (Barone, 2019). While Republicans have amassed significant support for traditional values, deregulation, and economy-focused propositions, Democrats focused on civil liberties, a partially controlled market, and social issues (Barone, 2019). This separation continues growing nowadays, which was especially apparent during recent presidential campaigns.
While there are parties other than Democrats and Republicans, their presence is insignificant in comparison with the first two groups. However, their representatives, despite their dwindling numbers, are able to promote reforms that would have remained unknown to the public to be reviewed and, sometimes, accepted by the majority (Longley, 2021). Alas, the U.S. electoral system prevents smaller parties from having their representatives elected based on the percentage of votes, as the “winner takes all” is a common practice (Hershey, 2021). Size alone is not a reason to avoid listening to a group’s concerns, and minor political parties are able to push their candidates into positions where their decisions can make a difference.
Barone, M. (2019). How America’s political parties change (and how they don’t). Encounter Books.
CBC. (2020). How the NRA, a powerful influence on American politics, found itself under attack. Web.
Hershey, M. (2021). Why third parties fail to gain traction in American politics. The Express.
Influence & lobbying. (n.d.). OpenSecrets.
Longley, R. (2021). The important role of third parties in US culture and government. ThoughtCo.