What are some strategies/tactics used by interest groups to influence public policy?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Interest groups of all kinds use a number of different tactics to influence elections and, thereby, get candidates that will advance their interests into government. Let us look at a few important ones.

The first and most important is to donate money to political candidates that support their positions. Interest...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Interest groups of all kinds use a number of different tactics to influence elections and, thereby, get candidates that will advance their interests into government. Let us look at a few important ones.

The first and most important is to donate money to political candidates that support their positions. Interest groups receive money from members, and funnel that money to candidates through political action committees (PACs) that identify appropriate candidates. Enormous sums of money are spent in this process, and accusations that PACs purchase influence through their donations are a major concern in American politics.

For candidates that are actually in office, interest groups exert influence by lobbying. Professional lobbying firms employ representatives, many of whom are former politicians themselves, to meet with members of Congress or state legislatures to attempt to persuade politicians to enact policies they approve of.

Another way that interest groups influence politics is to spend money on media campaigns. This consists of advertising on TV, the radio, and online. Elections that are deemed important, or that are very close, often witness an avalanche of election ads, paid for by interest groups via PACs and orchestrated by professional consultants and advertising firms.

In these ways and others, interest groups play a major role in influencing public policy in the United States.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are several strategies that an interest group might use to influence public policy. One strategy is to inform the public about a specific policy. This can be done by holding meetings, printing flyers or leaflets, and advertising on television, in newspapers, and through the use of social media. The group will develop several talking points to try to sway public opinion.

Another technique is to lobby elected officials. Lobbyists will hold meetings with the elected officials or their staff members. The group might also contribute to an elected official’s campaign for office, hoping that these contributions could influence a decision.

Other actions that can be used including holding rallies to show that many people support the interest group’s position on an issue. They may also gather signatures on a petition advocating for or against a specific policy. In some states, they might follow the process to get an idea on the ballot, either in a binding or a non-binding referendum. Occasionally, a lawsuit might be filed to help the interest group accomplish its goals.

There are many strategies an interest group might use to try to influence public policy.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are many different strategies interest groups can use to influence public policy. They include:

  • Petitions. Many groups create petitions they can deliver to officials to ask for changes in legislation or enforcement. Elected officials, in particular, can be sensitive to this sort of pressure as people who sign petitions and are politically active are more likely to vote.
  • Demonstrations, marches, and pickets: All of these can raise awareness of a particular issue.
  • Social and New Media: Social media campaigns are a good way to spread awareness of issues and influence legislation, as are websites and blogs.
  • Conventional Media Campaigns: Writing opinion pieces and op eds and sending out press releases can influence legislators and public opinion.
  • Lobbying: This can directly influence legislators. Most large interest group have active lobbyists.
  • Ballot Initiatives: In twenty-six states, citizen groups can sponsor ballot initiatives.
  • Lawsuits: Often test cases or class action suits can clarify laws or enhance the level of enforcement. 
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Interest groups engage in a variety of tactics to try to influence public policy.  Among the most important of these are:

  • Lobbying.  Interest groups pay people to interact directly with politicians.  These lobbyists try to persuade lawmakers to support policies the interest groups support.
  • Campaign contributions.  Interest groups give money to politicians to help fund their campaigns.  They hope to gain access to political officials and to help sympathetic politicians get elected.
  • Mobilizing members’ opinion.  Interest groups often try to make their members aware of policy issues that are important to the groups.  They encourage members to contact politicians and put pressure on them.
  • Litigation.  Interest groups sometimes sue the government to try to force it to take actions that the groups approve of.
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team