Interest Group Formation

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The Formation of Interest Groups

The pluralist theory of democracy contends that people with common interests organize to solicit support and solutions to problems in relation to government. Research indicates the key element in group formation is the person having the greatest incentive to organize. However, some research suggests the incentive to organize varies. The aim is to determine the driving force behind leadership as it applies to interest group formation.

Olson (1965) challenges the pluralist assertion of the associational structure of society, and the theory that group interests determine economic and political behavior. Olson states that “analytical”pluralists ignore individual incentive to get involved and fail to explain how groups really form. Latham (1952) explains
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Furthermore, most interest groups act without significant disturbance, contradicting Truman’s theory that interest groups form in part to counteract the efforts of other groups. (Berry,1996) Most importantly, Berry’s new findings support his 1978 study which demonstrates that most public interest groups organize by entrepreneurs, supporting Salisbury’s exchange theory.

Interest group entrepreneurs may also be motivated to create a group in response to a life event or tragedy. After a drunk driver killed one of her daughters, Cindy Lightner founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in 1980. Lightner identified latent interests and organized people to pursue a cause and share a goal of punishing and getting drunk drivers off the road. What began essentially as a grassroots activist movement by one lone mother in California is now an extremely effective interest group changing national attitudes against driving while intoxicated or