Participation in policy making is not fully specified in the Constitution. However, the first amendment establishes a set of core political rights such as free speech, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly. The first amendment rights help support persons and groups interact with Given the decentralized structure of the United States government these first amendment rights support persons and groups interact with the political system. The system has come to rely on this interaction to support our democratic system.
- Vote and write letters or call representatives
- Lower levels of political participation (such as lower voter turnouts) reflect growing alienation from the political system.
- The process by which people or groups are motivated to take action - lobbying, protest, or any other form of expression - in response to an issue or problem.
- People will often act when something threatens or appears to threaten their livelihood or lifestyle.
Because there are so many small issues that specific groups mobilize around, it may be difficult to aggregate all of these ideas to craft one true "public opinion".
- The assumed broader desires and needs of the public, in whose name policy is made. The public interest is hard to define but is something to which all policy advocates appeal.
- Without a know "public opinion" there is no clear delineator from which people can act in true public interest.
- A collection of people or organizations that unite to advance their desired political outcomes in government and society.
- There are many different ways to organize these groups by types of interest (public/private, institutional, economic, and so on).
- The greatest barrier to mobilization and forming an interest group is obtaining the resources related to organizing. Money allows these groups to hire full-time staff and make contributions to political campaigns.
- Varying levels of power and areas of concern amongst groups.
- Difficult to maintain membership unless there are incentives for participation.
- Provide more specialized knowledge to policy-makers.
Peak Associations or Organizations
The largest and most influential groups in a policy domain. These tend to be the groups that lead other like-minded groups in advocacy coalitions such as the American Medical Association and the National Rifle Association.
A broad-based group of people that come together to press for political or policy goals. A social movement is broader than an interest, often encompassing many groups and otherwise politically unorganized people. Recent social movements include civil rights movement and women's rights movement.
Institutional Interest Group
A group of people usually not formally constituted whose members are part of the same institution or organization. Students at a university are and example of such a group. Contrast with a membership interest group.
Economic or Private Interest Group
Groups formed to promote and defend the economic interests of their members, for example, industry associations.
Public Interest Groups
Groups formed to promote what its members believe is the broader public interest.
The term applied to the organized and ongoing process of persuading the legislative or executive branches to enact policies that promote an individual's or group's interest. The term has taken on a negative connotation. There is a perception that more political power is held by well-funded interest groups and that quid pro quo is necessary.
Strategies of Social Movements
- Mass Mobilization (recruit supporters to participate)
- Protest (marches, sit-ins)
- Litigation (use test cases to change policy)
A term used to describe how groups choose which branch or agency of government to lobby or persuade; they will choose the venue where they believe their concerns will receive a sympathetic ear.
An interest group that appears to have been formed by concerned citizens (that is from "grass roots") but is actually sponsored by a larger interest such as a corporation or labor union.
Political Parties as Unofficial Actors
- Party labels provide cues to voters.
- Provide a rough way of transmitting political preferences from the electorate to the elected branches.
- Help elected officials and their supporters create packages of policy ideas that can be used to appeal to voters and then shape legislation.
- Essential to the organization of the legislative branch translating electoral preferences to the House and the Senate (seniority, committee assignments, whips etc).
Independent research organizations, sometimes ideologically neutral but often identified with a particular political perspective.
Can be referred to as the "fourth branch" integral for information sharing, providing a check on the other three branches. Serves a watchdog function. Individuals and groups are able to monitor issues of interest and support or challenge policy. Now goes beyond print and television to radio, magazines, blogs, social media, websites, online video production, podcasts etc. With so many formats media can reach a wide and diverse audience. Many ways to create a following behind an issue. Not passive actors, as media decides what to cover, they can't cover everything, in some cases the decision is made based on expected revenue or sponsors. Also not all are neutral sources.
Internet-based systems of information gathering and publishing that rely on the actions of a broad range of people, rather than the actions of a few reporters, to find and promote information. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other systems are examples. Internet allows people to customize their news experience and only read what interests them. No longer have the captive audience of the single nightly newscast (good and bad). Mostly just redistributing news from the regular, original sources.
The investigative journalists fo the early twentieth century whose work exposed problems such as tainted food, dangerous working conditions, and bogus medicines. The term was coined by Theodore Roosevelt.
The group of actors - such as interest groups, government agencies, the media, and elected officials - that is actively involved in policy making in a particular domain. This group is generally thought of as being more open and dynamic than an iron triangle or subgovernment.
Agenda Setting Function of Media
- Helps to elevate some issues to great public attention.
- Greater levels of news coverage are closely associated with greater levels of institutional attention.
- Interest groups try to influence media to cover certain topics.
The decision to cover any event or issue means that another issue will not be covered. Limited in time and space. Influenced by viewer/reader.
Failures of Media
- Distortion Importance
- "If it bleeds, it leads"
- Fail to place events in context
- Historical fragmentation leads to fundamental errors in understanding
Personalizing the News
The media focus on the conflicting positions and in particular the people that represent the positions. Personalization can reduce conflicts to sometimes absurd depictions such as the depiction of the Gulf War as Bush v Hussein.
Internet news consumption
Customized by the viewer to only topics that the user finds interesting.
Coverage of events in packs. Use the same themes. Such is the case with political campaigns and white house coverage.
The substantive area of policy over which participants in policy making compete and compromise such as the environmental policy domain or the health policy domain. Subdomains such as air pollution or water pollution exist and activities that occur within these domains influence other domains.
A particular style of sub-government in which there are mutually reinforcing relationships between a regulated interest, the agency charged with regulation, and the congressional subcommittee charged with policy making in that issue area. This way of characterizing policy-making relationships has largely given way to more sophisticated sub-government concepts, such as issue networks. "Policy Monopolies"
The legislative practice of trading commitments to vote for members' preferred policies.
Costs of policies are dispersed and benefits are concentrated. Types of policies typically created by iron triangles.
The policy network or subsystem that is most involved in making policy in a particular domain.
Issue Network (or Policy Network)
A term that describes the relationships between the various actors and interests in a particular policy issue. Hugh Heclo promoted this term because it describes a more open policy-making system that contains more actors and relationships than the older iron triangle concept.
A system of policies intended to achieve broad policy goals, such as homeland security. Policy regimes can be more or less coherent in terms of the goals and structure of the policies and of the participants in the process.
Given that, at least theoretically, political power is derived from the consent of the people, groups appeal to the people directly in conjunction with trying to gain status within a policy network or community. Can be done through mailers, internet, media coverage etc.