Monday, August 17, 2009

Do interest groups have positive or negative influence on the outcome of the US elections?

The United States of America has one of the most liberal democratic and oldest constitutions in the world formed on September 17 1787. Within the political divide in US there are influential factors that affect the outcome of elections such as interest groups. This essay will elucidate and explain why interest groups in United States of America have a positive and a negative impact on the outcome of elections.
According to Robertson (1985:159) interest groups are associations formed to promote a sectional interest in the political system thus trade unions, professional associations, employer’s organizations and motoring organizations. These interest groups have strong ties with the political environment in which they operate in they influence the political systems to suit their interests as their main objective is to fulfill the goals why they where created. Delury and Kaple (1999:1201) quotes Alexis de Tocqueville an American observer of political systems as he noted that in 1835 Americans tend to from associations that where for the purpose of pursuing and protecting there individual interests. The existence of the interests groups in America since 1835 has influence the outcome of the elections for instance of the election of the congress which is very vital for policy implementation, as well in the presidency, by endorsement of the candidates. According to Mclean (1996;244 ) he states that in the United States interests groups pay close attention to influencing congress, sometimes producing the so called iron triangles comprising interest groups ,congressional subcommittees and bureaucratic agencies.
The presence of interests groups has positively affected the election outcome according to Heywood (2002; 277) interest groups have managed to strengthen representation by articulating interests and advancing view that are ignored by political parties and by providing a means of influencing the government during election period. The interest groups have managed to educate the electorate on the dangers of electing a government that has bad policy implementation into power there presentation of sectional political interests has provided a platform for individual freedom and the right to exercise liberty . The electorate is likely to vote for a party or a candidate that is supported by various interests groups as they represent the people’s will. The various interest groups such as National Rifle Association (NRA) and American Association of Retired People (AARP) during election time manage to mobilize electoral majority to go and vote. During campaign periods in US various corporate groups, labour unions, ideological groups and professional groups managed to mobilize the electoral majority to vote, the purpose of electoral mobilization is to allow the voters to excises there right to vote and be part of the decision making process of the elected government which will lead to a more democratic government with better policies.
To gain the support of the Congress, interest groups campaign for individual members. The election finance laws in American politics show how important the interest groups are. Finance laws stipulate the amount an individual or companies can sponsor an election interest groups have no limit on their contributions they are registered under the US tax code which permits them to engage in political activity or raising money for political candidates without the regulations from the Federal election Commission. Election outcome is influenced in way that the political parties always get the support form interest groups to increase their support base which automatically leads to increased votes. Mostly importantly the interest groups according to Heywood (2002; 277) they broaden the scope of political participation and by providing an alternative to conventional party politics and by offering opportunities for grassroots activism, instead of politics begin confined to politicians only, the US interest groups allows the electorate participation as they can influence through institutional relationships that exist between the political parties or government bodies to make policies that suit their objectives. According to Magleby (1998; 1) the expanded role of interest groups marks the end from the one candidate centered campaigns so common in American politics.
Interests groups can now participate in politics by endorsing their candidates and campaign for them in they represent the interests of the political groups. The interest groups are important for the communicating vote information to the electorate through TV ads and various means of media through media, electorates can be able to vote wisely. According Magleby (1998; 9) interest groups electioneering the media added responsibility to inform the public of the full range of campaign activities, including those by non candidate campaign entities. During the 2009 presidential election various modes of media we used by the interest groups not to endorse there candidates and attacking candidates but to provide knowledge of the electorate no why it important to vote especially for their endorsed candidates. The most importantly they create a good environment for elections as they enforce the legislature to implement policies that govern elections.
Lastly according to Heywood (2000; 277) the interest groups promote debate and discussion thus creating a better uniform and a more educated electorate and improving quality of public policy. Candidate from various parties and candidates are forced to engage in debates on how they will improve the lives of the society and the states when elected into power this allows the electorate to determine which party or candidate to vote for due to this elections in US are very much unpredictable it depends on the candidate manifesto and his wisdom to get the votes. In contrary they are negative influences that the interest groups have on the outcome of elections in US. Heywood (2002:277) states that interests groups entrench political equality by strengthening the voice of the wealth and privileged those who have access to financial, education organizational or other resources. This can be explained by the Obama race to the presidency 2008 to 2009 and Bush’s 2000 bid for presidency, business and institutional groups supported and endorsed them as candidates for presidency, interest groups funded their campaigns, a candidate with most campaigning funds is likely to win.
Democracy is not achievable when the rich control the poor to vote for their individual interests those elected into power will definitely implement policies that suit those of the interest groups to compensate for the donations during the campaigning process. According to Wilson (2003;132) the decay of political parties in recent decades has been paralleled by the vast proliferation of organized interest groups or lobbies leading to a two party system that makes voters reluctant to waste votes on minor parties. The electorates are restricted to vote for the most major parties thus the Democratic Party and the Republican Party in the US, with the most liberal democracy in the world America is slowly changing from a multi party state into a two party system State. During the campaign of Presidency 2008 to 2009 in the US the Democratic nominee Obama had the massive support of the interest groups the campaign contributions form these interest groups meant his opponents where facing an unfair campaign race for presidency as much of the wealthy interest groups were in the support of him. Interest groups enables to unfair campaign process in the election period. According to Magleby (2000;1)campaigning spending by the interest groups in the guise of issue "advocacy" has also grown dramatically in the recent elections cycles and has given the political parties a new argument to use when raising soft money.
Voters are no longer aware of who really want their votes the political parties or the interest groups. Due to interest group intervention in politics, political parties in the election period spend a lot of their time trying to respond public criticism this affects the campaigning hence would affect the electorate vote for the political parties if the electorate is brainwashed and induced with falsehoods against other party. The criticism by interest groups is for the defeat of candidates they oppose in which they convince members to vote for a specific candidate in an election. According to Mangleby (2000; 8) Parties in US use millions of dollars to respond to well financed attacks against their party candidates by interest groups. The fear of interest groups targeting candidates has also meant candidates have cooperated with their parties in the surge in soft money fund raising and spending. According to Heywood (2000:277) the interest groups are socially and politically divisive in that they are concerned with the particular not the general and advance minority interest against the majority.
With wealthy interest groups influencing the outcome of elections in the US this means democracy is compromised as the majority interest will not be represented by the outcome of the elections. ln addition interest groups according to Heywood (2000;277) tend to make the policy process closed and more secretive by exerting influence through negotiations and deals that are in no way subject to public scrutiny.
The electorate in the US can vote during elections for parties that have links with interest groups that represent the minority. Most of these factors lead to electorates unwilling to vote hence suppressed indirectly by interest groups. Interest groups in USA can be involved in demobilizing the electorates due to the propaganda they air on ads and radio with strong financial backbone the demobilizing affects the election results In conclusion the American elections remain the most democratic elections in the world as it allows different interest groups to participate in the election process. Democracy is achieved when the voice is given to individuals as well as different groups. Modern elections should be conducted when there is more intervention of the public and to allow the electorate to decide on who to vote for with the help of the interest groups.
D Robertson (1985).A Dictionary of Modern Politics. Europa Publications G.E Delury and D.A Kaple (1999) .
World Encyclopedia of Political Systems and Parties .Facts On File lnc Heywood A. (2002).
Politics. London.
Palgrave I Mclean (1996) The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Politics .Oxford University Press. J
Q Wilson (2003) American Government .Houghton Mifflin Company


  1. too long not helpful.

  2. I have to write a 10 pg paper on news media and interest groups effect on elections. This paper has been very helpful in understanding interest groups.I will be citing this in my essay. Good job thanks for posting this.

  3. What is the reference for Heywood A. ?