Techniques of Interest Groups

All interest groups want to influence public opinion both to increase their memberships and to convince people of the importance of their causes. Many use direct-mail campaigns to recruit members. They target potential members by using subscriber or membership mailing lists from magazines or groups with a similar viewpoint.

Ethel Percy Andrus (1884-1967)

Ethel Percy Andrus spent her life as an educator, becoming the first ferns le principal of a Californie high school at age 32. When she retired fit ago 60 in 1944, Andrus volunteered to direct California's Retired Teachers Association. What she discovered fro uh led her. Many retired teachers struggled to survive on small pensions, often with no heallh insurance.

Andrus decided to term retired teachers into an alliance that would force lawmakers to lisr ten to them. In 1947 she founded the National Retired Teachers Association. In 1956 Ihe organization won the tirst health insurance pre grsm for educators over age 65. Two years later. Andrus founded the American Association for Retired Persons, now know as the AARP.

Under the direction of Andrus. the AARP became a powerful lobby, focused on meeting the needs of all Americans over age 50. Today the AARP has more than 34 million rncrnhers. The AARP advises governments on age-related issues and protects programs like Social Security. Staffed mostly by vol un Leers, the AARP tries to fulfill the motto given to it by Andrusi "To Serve: Not to be Served!"

Interest groups also advertise on television and radio, and in newspapers and magazines. Maybe you've seen chc ads urging you to drink milk, buy American-made products, or cat pork. Trade associations sponsor these types of ads. Interest groups also stage protests and organize public events to get coverage in the media. Interest groups use propaganda techniques to promote a particular view-point or idea. To avoid

being misled, citizens need, to recognize the following types of propaganda:

■ Endorsements

The idea behind endorsements is that if people admire the person endorsing a candidate or product, they will support the candidate or product, too.

■ Stackcd Cards

Card stacking is a technique that presents only one side of the issue., often by distorting the facts,

» Name-Calling

Name-calling is an attempt to turn people against an opponent or an idea by using an unpleasant label or description for that person or idea.

• Glittering Generality

A glittering generality is a statement that sounds good but is essentially meaningless.

Political candidates and interest groups use and misuse symbols when appealing to the public.

■ Just Plain Folks

Political campaigns often use many photographs of candidates wearing hard hats, talking to factory workers, eating pizza or tacos, or even milking cows. 'Hie idea of the plain-folks appeal is to make people think that the candidate is just like them, with the same desires and concerns.

• The Bandwagon

Getting on the bandwagon means convincing people that everyone else agrees with the interest group's viewpoint or that everyone is going to vote for a certain candidate. This technique tries to appeal to many people's desire to be on the winning team.

Types of Propaganda Techniques 4




"Cundidule A is u dangerous extremist.

"Cundidule A is u dangerous extremist.


Popular movie star says, "I'm vol ¡rig for Candidate A and so should you."



"Candidate A is the one who will bririg uk peace and prosperity."


Popular movie star says, "I'm vol ¡rig for Candidate A and so should you."



"Polls showou' candidate is pulling ¡iheuri. cjnti we expaol to win in a landslide.'


"My parents were ordinary, hardworking people. arid they taught me those values.

"Candidate A is the one who will bririg uk peace and prosperity."


"Polls showou' candidate is pulling ¡iheuri. cjnti we expaol to win in a landslide.'

"My parents were ordinary, hardworking people. arid they taught me those values.



'Candidate A has the besl reuord on Ihe environment."

'Candidate A has the besl reuord on Ihe environment."

Evaluating Ch arts


I pierce <jlle#i)ru:e

Interest groups and political parties use various techniques to promote their causes. How does name-calling differ from the other techniques?

Regulation of Interest Groups

Although the Constitution guarantees Americans the right to participate in interest groups, state and Federal governments may pass laws regulating their activities. (In the past, lobbying was criticizcd because some lobbyists tried to win legislators' votes by providing them with fancy meals and gifts.) For example, the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 limits the amount of money PACs may contribute to candidates for national office. The Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act, passed in 1946, states that any person hired as a lobbyist to influence Congress must register with the Clerk of the House of Representatives and the Secretary of the Senate. Lobbyists are required to disclose who hired them, how much they are paid, and how they spend money related to their work. State governments have passed similar laws. These laws have not been very effective, though, because they apply only to people whose primary job is lobbying. People who claim that only a small part of their time is spent lobbying arc not required to register. As a result, only about one-fifth to one-quarter of all lobbyists are registered. Also, the law does not provide any means of enforcement.

Federal and state laws also require a waiting period before former government officials can become lobbyists. The terms of these laws vary from state to state. A typical law might bar a former state legislator from lobbying the legislature for two years after leaving office. These laws are meant to prevent ex-public officials from taking unfair advantage of inside knowledge and friendships with former associates on behalf of interest groups. These laws have proved inadequate, especially at die federal level.

Some people argue that interest groups and lobbyists have too much say in government. Critics claim that campaign contributions give interest groups improper influence over officeholders. Others, however, point out that, by themselves, most citizens can have little effect on government officials, but as members of an effective interest group, with skilled lobbyists, citizens can increase their influence.

^'iIJ'HlnIlM> Explaining Why has lobbying been criticized in the past?


Checking for Understanding

1. Key Terms Define Ihe io I lowing terms and use them in sen-ton ens rolated to interest groups: public interest group, public policy, political action committee (PAC). lobbyist.

Reviewing Main Ideas

2. Explain What was the purpose ot the Föderal Election Campaign AcL of 1971?

3. Conclude WiLh whal kind of issues would public interest groups bo most likely con cerned? Give an example.

Critical Thinking

4. Making Comparisons Compare and contrast the benefits and dangers ot intorost groups and lobbyisls in our political system.

5. Summarizing Information Complele a web diagram like Ihe one below to show how interest groups influenco governmental decision making.

H o'// Intccst Grouos Influence Government

Analyzing visuals

6. Identify Review the chart on page 274. Which technique is a group using whon it lists all the advantages of supporling ils cause, but fails to list any disadvantages?


7. Research Contact a large corporation that has a prosonco in your community. Find oul how many lobbyists they employ and what kinds of issuos they deal with.

Chapter 11 Influencing Government 275

Assessment & Activities

JteYtew tu l£mn\

Section 1

» Public opinion helps shape the decisions of government officials.

• A person's background, the mass media, public officials, and interest groups all play a role in shaping public opinion.

Section 2

* There are two types of mass media—print and electronic.

♦ The mass media help set the public agenda, publicize candidates, and present information to the public.

• The mass media also monitor government activities.

Section 3

♦ Economic interest groups, public interest ¿roups, and private groups like the NAACP, AARP, and environmental groups all influence government decision making.

Using Your Foldables Study Organizer

Form groups of about five students. Place your desks in a circle. Then each person in the circle, in turn, describes one way that the government is influenced, using the completed foldable.

Reviewing Key Terms

Write the chapter key term that matches each clue below.

1. often hired by interest groups to help thern influence government officials

2. ideas and attitudes that most people hold about elected officials and political issues

3. government censorship of material before it is published

4. television, radio, newspapers, magazines, recordings, movies, and books

5. publishing false information that harms a person's reputation

6. actions taken by government leaders to resolve a problem or issue

7. people who share a point of view about an issue and join together

8. problems that government leaders consider most important and receive the most attention

9. surveys of individuals that ask questions about issues or candidates

10. organizations that collect money from members of their group and use it to support some candidates and oppose others

Reviewing Main Ideas

11. Why do people form interest groups?

12. Why do some people criticize public opinion polls?

13. What factors can influence a person's opinion on particular issues?

14. What impact do the mass media have on politics and government in the United States?

15. What role does the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have in regulating the media?

16. What do political action committees (PACs) do?

17. What are the main tasks of lobbyists?

18. What are the provisions of the Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act of 1946?

Cause; Tirst Amendment to the U.S. Corisl i I uliori

Critical Thinking

19. Analyzing Information What role do you think public opinion polls should play in the political process? Explain.

20. Cau&e and Effect In a chart like the one below, determine the effect of constitutional protections as they relate to the media.

Cause; Tirst Amendment to the U.S. Corisl i I uliori

Practicing Skills

Analyzing News Media Find a report of a recent political opinion poll on the Internet or In a newsmagazine or newspaper and answer the following questions.

21. What is the poll about and when was it conducted?

22. What specific questions were asked? Can you think of a way that these questions might be phrased that would be less biased?

23. Summarize the results of the poll in sentence form.

Analyzing Visuals

24. Examine the photograph that opens the chapter on page 257. What actions are taking place in the photo? What type of interest group is most likely sponsoring these actions? Why do you think these citizens are taking these actions? What do you think they hope to accomplish?

Economics Activity

25. On the Internet, go to ic.b':".'- Look at the chart "Total Lobbyist Spending (in Millions)." In 1999 what industry spent the most on lobbying? Which spent the least? Why do you think industries spend such large amounts of money on lobbyists each year?



Self-Check Quiz Visit the Civics Today Wob site at o.corr and click on Self-Check Quizzes— Chapter 11 to prepare for the chaptor tost.


Form groups of four or five and select an issue in your community. Assume the role of a lobbyist working for a group that supports your position on the issue. Develop a plan for lobbying. The plan should include a clear statement of your position, a list of officials you would lobby, and an outline of your presentation.

j Technology Activity

Think about a political or social issue in which you are interested. Then do an Internet search to find an interest group related to the issue that you might want to join. Create a visual presentation about the group.

Standardized Test Practice

Directions: Choose the answer that tesi completes the following statement.

_influence public policy by identifying issues, making political contributions, and lobbying government officials.

A The mass media B Interest groups C Pollsters D Random samples

Te$t-Taklitg Tip

Define each answer choice as best as you can before answering the question. Which definition best fits the statement?

Chapter 11 Influencing Government 277

The relationship between the American people and government is closcsi at the state and local levels. As citizens, one of our most important roles is to work with local leaders to improve our communities and solve problems affecting their well-being.

Use the American History Primary Source Document Library CD-ROM to find primary sources about state and local governments.


As you study Unit 4, participate in an ongoing activity to help your community. You might* for example* help clean up local highways or tutor younger students. Keep a journal describing your activities and then share your thoughts and experiences with the class at the end of the unit.


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