Timothy Kinsella
Political Science
Material Type:
Community College / Lower Division, College / Upper Division
Ohio Open Ed Collaborative
Astroturf Lobbying, Free Rider, Grassroots Lobbying, Inside Lobbying, Interest Group, Lobbying, Outside Lobbying, Political Action Committee (PAC), Private Goods, Public Goods
Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
Media Formats:

Education Standards

Interest Groups: Course Map & Recommended Resources


Interest Groups

The resources included here are intended to map to the following learning objectives for an American Government Course:

  1. Define what an interest group is, its main purpose and how it functions
  2. Compare and contrast the role of political parties and interest groups
  3. Classify the different types of interest groups
  4. Describe the tactics employed by interest groups to achieve their political goals
  5. Explain the various theories of power that attempt to explain the advantages and disadvantages of interest groups
  6. Address the inherent conflict of individuals in a free society pursuing their own interests and the "public good"
  7. Explain Federalist No. 10 and how it relates to role of interest groups in a democratic political system

    Recommended Textbooks

    Discussion and Key Concepts

    Discussion Questions

    1. How is James Madison’s Federalist No. 10 related to the idea of interest groups and pursuit of self-interest? What Amendment in the Bill of Rights supports the idea of interest groups?

    2. Discuss the key components to the “iron triangle.” What are the positives and negatives to iron triangles? How do they differ from issue networks?

    3. Identify the various types of interest groups and provide examples of each.

    4. Discuss the various types of incentives or motivations that individuals have for joining an interest group.

    5. Some suggest that interest groups favor those in upper socio-economic classes and are anti-democratic. Discuss whether you believe this to be true or not.

    6. Discuss a group that you belong to and share why you joined and why you continue to be a member of that group. If you are no longer a member of any group you previously joined, discuss why you decided to leave the group.Think about a policy that you would like to change (either at your college or university or at the state or federal level). What steps would you take to make that change happen?

    Key Terms or Concepts (Define):

    1. Interest group
    2. Lobbying
    3. Inside lobbying
    4. Outside lobbying
    5. Grassroots lobbying
    6. Private goods
    7. Astroturf lobbying
    8. Free rider
    9. Political action committee (PAC)
    10. Public goods