Americans are a society of joiners. People come together in organizations and clubs to share interests, learn skills, and make friends. Businesses join associations to share information, learn new technologies, and formulate strategic plans. State and local government officials create organizations to share resources, learn from others' experiences, and discuss mutual frustrations. When each of these efforts turns to influencing public policy, the organization becomes an interest group.
Interest groups are increasingly the mechanism of choice for individuals and organizations to make their voices heard on public policy issues. Individuals and organizations, who may not know enough about an issue or how to influence decision makers to participate effectively on their own, can hire an interest group to do the work for them.
Interest groups allow those who, individually, may have comparatively little at stake, to aggregate their stakes with others of similar size, thereby making it economically and politically feasible to attempt to influence policy. Using pooled resources, interest groups afford their members an opportunity to have a greater impact than they could have by acting separately. 1
An interest group is an organized body of individuals or organizations (such as schools, businesses, state attorneys general, or churches) that