How do interest groups function in American politics? What purposes do they serve?
Although many people think that interest groups are bad for our democracy, they actually have a very important purpose in our system. If we did not have interest groups, our democracy would be less effective. The purpose of interest groups is to communicate the opinions of the people to the government on a regular basis.
In order to have a true democracy, we need to have a government that listens to our opinions. Outside of interest groups, there are not very many ways to have our voices heard. We can vote in elections, but this is not very effective. Elections do not happen every year. They also do not allow us to communicate a very specific message. Politicians cannot tell, for example, if we voted for them because we liked their position on Issue A, Issue B, or simply because we hated their opponent. We can write letters to our representatives, but few people will take the time to do this and representatives are relatively unlikely to pay attention if they do.
Interest groups fix this problem. They have people like lobbyists who constantly convey their opinions to people in the government. If politicians want to know what the people think about immigration, there will be interest groups on all sides of the issue to tell them exactly what their members think. Because this happens, members of government are more likely to understand what the people want and our democracy is more likely to be effective.