Interest groups are an essential part of the US political system as they can influence the decisions of Congress, bureaucratic authorities, and the democratic processes of the state. This influence is possible due to the availability of significant financial resources and the massive support of American citizens who are often members of these groups (Schmidt et al., 2019). To a greater extent, interest groups influence the adoption of laws and regulations, since the processes of their adoption are permanent and repetitive. However, interest groups can influence elections through financial and informational support of campaigns, as well as influencing the opinion of voters.
US political forces are diverse in direction, size, and influence. Interest groups are defined as organized associations of people who share common goals and actively attempt to influence policymakers to achieve them (Schmidt et al., 2019). Groups differ in their goals and resources that they can use to lobby for their interests and choose political forces that reflect their values. In other words, some unions and organizations benefit from the position of one or another party or candidate in power because of their political views. For this reason, many interest groups, especially those with significant powers, often influence the election race and, hence, the election results.
The first way to influence elections is financing and informational support of the campaigns of certain parties and candidates. While corporations and constituencies cannot directly contribute to candidates’ campaigns, they can provide recourses to support them (Schmidt et al., 2019). For example, a union or organization can delegate people to conduct surveys and spread promotional materials such as posters. In addition, as interest groups usually have significant funds, they can conduct research that is not available to political parties or provide information that is difficult to obtain. For example, an interest group can study the needs of the electorate or get information about an opponent and use it to build a campaign. Thus, interest groups support parties or candidates who can help them pursue political or economic goals if they win.
The second way is to influence the opinion of voters directly. Interest groups include labor unions, business organizations, and media collaborations. Consequently, they have the resources and capacity to influence the voter’s opinion by shaping the agenda (Schmidt et al., 2019). For example, the media can speak positively or negatively about the actions and statements of parties or candidates. Businesses can express their support directly through public statements, public events, or even launching a line of products with party’s or candidate’s symbols or slogans. The Internet has also become an important tool for shaping public opinion. Interest groups can discreetly or openly use social media to disseminate information about candidates by using their resources or hiring specialists. Thus, interest groups can influence the race and election results by shaping public opinion.
Examples of such influence are known to political experts and the general public in the activities of the Republican and Democratic parties. The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organization (AFL-CIO), which is the largest federation of unions in the United States, is traditionally considered a supporter of the Democratic Party (Schmidt et al., 2019). This support stems from the fact that Democrats traditionally advocate for worker rights and job creation for all US residents, including migrants. In 2020, the AFL-CIO traditionally supported the Democrats, expressing their desire to see Joe Biden as president (Renshaw, 2020). At the same time, Republicans also have interest groups that have expressed their support over the years. The US The Chamber of Commerce, which is the largest lobbyist for business in the United States, has supported the Republican Party for decades because it more often advocates regulations and laws beneficial for business (Schmidt et al., 2019). However, since interest parties do not have any actual obligations, they can change their position. Hence, the US The Chamber of Commerce announced its intention to work more closely with the Democratic Party, which angered many Republicans (Newmyer & Gregg, 2021). Thus, these examples demonstrate how interest groups choose points and mechanisms of influence through the support of political forces and that their priorities correspond only to their interests.
In conclusion, interest groups are a significant force in US political life. Their activities and lobbying efforts contribute to broader coverage of critical socio-political issues; however, they can lead to negative consequences for the country if they influence unequally. Interest groups can significantly impact elections in two ways. Firstly, any group can financially, informationally, and resourcefully support the direct initiatives of a party or candidate during the implementation of their campaign. Secondly, powerful interest groups can shape and influence public opinion, persuading the population to make choices through the media, their reputation, or the launch of promotional initiatives. At the same time, since American political parties traditionally defend certain positions on important issues, interest groups provide them with long-term support to achieve their goals. Therefore, while interest groups are useful forces to represent the entire population, their powers must be balanced to maintain democracy, equality, and justice in political decision-making.
Newmyer, T., & Gregg, A. (2021). Chamber of Commerce draws fire after a risky bet on Democrats. The Washington Post. Web.
Renshaw, J. (2020). Biden wins AFL-CIO endorsement as he seeks to recapture blue-collar vote. Reuters. Web.
Schmidt, S. W., Shelley, M. C., & Bardes, B. A. (2019). American government and politics today. Cengage.