Interest Group Politics Building Campaign Power on Organizational Strength
In this chapter we examine interest groups themselves and aspects of their identity, resources, leadership, and other attributes that will help us understand how these organizational characteristics fuel the political activities that affect public policy decisionmaking.
Let us begin with some simple definitions. Over the years interest groups have been called trusts, vested interests, special interests, single interest groups, and pressure groups. These names carry certain unsavory connotations; even the more neutral term "lobby" has some negative baggage. We define political interest groups as groups based on one or more shared attitudes and making political claims on other groups or organizations in the society ( Truman 1971). From this definition come two characteristics that are important to our understanding of interest group politics. First, groups are composed of individuals (or other organizations) who share some common characteristics and/or interests. Second, some groups choose to become involved in the political process and seek to have an impact on public policy.
Social and political movements that seek social change but have not formed into lasting organizations may be called preinterest groups. Social movements arise from the unfulfilled demands of a group of people and are persistent, organized expressions of collective behavior differing from fads, riots, or panics. Herbert Blumer defines social movements as developing by "acquiring organization and form, a body of customs and traditions, established leadership, an enduring division of labor, social rules and social values" ( 1951, 199). Some social movements may evolve into political interest groups with a well-defined membership, regular funding, permanent staff, and knowledge of how to operate within the political system.