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Political Parties Vs Interest Groups

Updated on December 26, 2017


A political party refers to a group of persons who organize themselves for the purpose of taking over power, determine policy, and run the government. On the other hand, interest groups represents a group of individuals with common interests and who endeavor to sway policy towards a certain direction by policy makers, in this case politicians. Both of these entities are quite important in a government set-up. In general terms, both the political parties and interest groups comprise of organized group of individuals who are serving specific interests and working to achieve particular objectives in the government. In addition, both of them are involved in solving political issues affecting the society as well as in raising resources to accomplish the laid down goals. This paper presents a comparison between interest groups and political parties. The discussion will entail the roles of these entities within the government, the society, their international structures and composition, and how they operate. Political parties and interest groups serve a crucial role in the operation of a government.


Despite political parties and interest groups working towards achieving particular objectives within the government, their roles and structure differ to a greater extent. While interest groups are not interested in running the government, political parties are focused towards being at the helm of political power. In addition, interest parties do not sponsor candidates for political office. However, they at certain level, support candidates who are aligned to their interests and are willing to provide the necessary assistance once elected. Another area of divergence between the two entities is that unlike interest groups which are focused on achieving a specified goal, a political party may have different views on a particular issue and even blur their positions on such issues. This owes to the fact that political parties want to appeal to a wider society and attract as many voters as possible. Therefore, they will not consider making statements or supporting a diversity of opinions rather than the interest of certain people (Baroni, 2014). This mode of operation is quite different from that of interest groups who harbor a tendency of sharpening specific matters for the purpose of promoting a specific issue or position, which may be regulation of abortion, banning of homo-sexuality, gun control or eradicating poverty.

Interest groups have in recent years grown tremendously as it pertains to policy making process. In the American perspective, there is a long history of specific individual or groups of individuals joining together to achieve a given purpose. It is not surprising then that America’s political system is largely influence by a wide range of interest groups. Apparently, there is no definite classification of interest groups. Instead, there are a myriad of interest groups which represents different interests within the political system (Wilcox and Berry, 2008:90). This better explains why interest groups employ equally different strategies and tactics owing to the fact that they represent a divergence of interests in achieving their course.

As already stated, interest groups employ various approaches in influencing government policy. Among these include rallying members of the public to vote for particular individuals or groups, lobbying the government to consider their interests or undertake specific measures, and educating the public on their rights or how they can achieve their goals. Furthermore, the groups may resort to mobilizing the public to engage in such activities as demonstrating, or contacting their political leaders to address their plight among other ways (Wilcox and Berry, 2008:115). Some groups utilize electioneering strategies such as giving donations to political candidates, or endorsing those who support their goals, or rallying people to vote for particular party/individuals.

Different types of interest groups exist in the society. For instance, there are trade associations, which offer a representation to a particular aspect of the economy (for instance, teachers, traders, lawyers, plantation workers, among others). Each of this group takes a stand on a divergence of policy matter. There is also Citizen Action Groups, another form of interest group which is focused on a diverse range of public issues. These issues may include environmental condition, corruption, injustices, discrimination among others. There are also non-membership groups serving specific economic interests. Corporations, Universities, local and state governments are categorized in this group. Majority of interest groups keep a close contact with former government players (such as former cabinet ministers, members of congress, and military officers. They then use these people on their behalf as lobbyists owing to their knowledge, experience, and connection in the government and policy making-process (Annenberg Foundation, 2017). The representatives of the interest group are then expected to generate policy outcomes that benefit members of the society.

Political parties are united on one objective, electing public officials. In other words, the interest is on gaining political authority. This is also one main area that differentiates it from interest groups. The Republicans and Democrats, the two key political groupings in the U.S work in a different manner from each other. However, both of them endeavor to achieve the same political goal. In most cases, the two key political affiliations in the US adapt their ideologies geographically, and over time in order to conform to a specific political environment. This may explain the reason why third parties have always found a hard time to establish their bases. Parties may be involved in facilitating citizenship, promoting democratic government, as well as serving the interests of politicians, coordinating elections, facilitating collective political action, as well as in coordinating the processes involved in policy-and legislation processes (Hershey, 2010). However, unlike interest groups whose participation is indirect, the political party’s involvement in policy-process may be done directly, especially by those who are in control of the political system.


Key differences between political parties and interest groups have been duly analyzed. The paper has noted that while the existence of an interest group is for the purposes of promoting a position on a given issue, a political party is formed with the sole purpose of gaining government control. Furthermore, a political party may not be static about a given issue, but rather can be flexible to appeal varied interests from a diverse number of voters. In other words, they are dealing with a wide range of issue while interest groups are addressing only one single issue. Concerning members, interest group members are not necessarily aligned to any specific political party or political candidate. Instead, they are ready to support any party or candidates who are willing to support their course. This is unlike members of a political party who are expected to support only their particular party.


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