Role of Interest Groups
What types of Interest Groups are there?
Interest groups are often divided into types. The main distinctions are:-
a) Sectional (sometimes called functional) groups as against Cause (sometimes called promotional) groups. Sectional groups represent the economic/trade/professional interests of people who share a similar type of employment or business, for example the National Union of Teachers or the Country Landowners’ Association or the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. They normally have formal membership rules with members paying a subscription and only people in that trade or type of employment can join. Cause groups allow anyone to join who share the same moral concern in relation to an issue or they may not even have a formal membership but only a much looser network of supporters. They often pursue the concerns of others, such as Shelter for the homeless, or of animals, such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, though groups of people with the same disability or illness have increasingly come together to argue for recognition of their special needs.
b) Insider groups and Outsider groups. Insider groups are those that have regular access to Government through meetings with ministers and senior civil servants and enjoy channels of informal consultation. These are often the sectional groups that represent major economic interests which may be important to the British economy. They are often given early notice of changes that may affect them but this does then mean that they are not expected to attack the Government in public. Outsider groups have to rely on replying to the public consultations that Government initiates or on lobbying of MPs or on creating publicity and many of the cause groups are in this category. The political party that control Government may not be sympathetic to their views and so they are largely excluded from decision-making. This may lead them to use demonstrations or even direct action to further their aims. In practice the difference between insider and outsider groups if often not that clear and for any particular group varies with circumstances.