Government will always distribute resources in ways that benefit some at the expense of others. People who want to influence the way that government policy decisions are made from interest groups. To accomplish their goals, interest groups lobby elected officials, rally public opinion, offer policy suggestions, and keep tabs on policy once enacted. Interest groups also must organize and convince others to join, often offering selective benefits to members.
Interest groups come in all different types. Economic groups like business associations or trade unions want to protect and improve their status. Public interest groups advocate their vision of society, and equal opportunity groups organize to gain, or at least improve, economic status and civil rights. Governments form associations to improve relations among their ranks.
Lobbyists are the key players of interest groups. They influence public policy either by approaching the three branches of government (direct lobbying) or by convincing the people to pressure the government (indirect lobbying).
The success of individual interest groups is often affected by factors like funding, quality of leadership, membership size and intensity, and access to information.
Critics of interest groups fear that the most powerful groups are simply those with the most money, and that this poses a danger to American democracy. However, interest group formation may also be seen as a way to give more power to more citizens, offering a mechanism to keep politicians accountable by offering additional channels for representation, participation, education, creation of policy solutions, and public agenda building.