Advocacy Groups: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:03 What is an Advocacy Group?
  • 1:22 Types of Advocacy Groups
  • 3:37 Examples of Advocacy Groups
  • 4:27 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley
Advocacy groups are important players in local, state, federal, and even international politics. In this lesson you'll learn what an advocacy group is and the role they play in politics. We'll also provide some examples.

What is an Advocacy Group?

Meet Harry. Harry is a US senator, and he's constantly under siege by many different advocacy groups. An advocacy group is an organization whose members share a common political, economic, or social interest and try to advance those interests through the political process. You should note that while advocacy groups can be very influential, their influence is informal because they do not hold government power. Instead, they try to influence people who either hold power (like Harry) or who may hold power (like a candidate for office) to support the policy positions the group wants to be supported.

So why does Harry put up with all these groups pestering him about whether he'll support their positions? Harry needs voters and financial support to obtain the office and keep it. If these groups can win Harry's support, they may contribute financially to Harry's campaign and urge members to vote for Harry on Election Day, and that's very important to a politician like Harry.

On a less cynical note, advocacy groups also provide information and education on complex issues that ideally will help elected officials make informed decisions. This is especially true if the advocacy groups on both sides of a complex or controversial issue are of equal strength or influence.

Now, let's look at some examples by returning to Harry's campaign.

Types of Advocacy Groups

Advocacy groups are as diverse as the people and ideas they represent. Some focus on a broad range of issues based on underlying political, social, or economic beliefs or values. For example, Harry may be contacted by groups that support a conservative political ideology or progressive ideology to determine whether his personal beliefs align with the group's views.

While some advocacy groups are very broad in focus, some are narrower and focus on the interests of a specific group of people. For example, some groups may advocate for a specific industry, such as the aerospace industry, the automobile industry, or the pharmaceutical industry. Some may advocate for a particular minority group, such as African Americans, women, or the LGBT community. Some groups, such as labor unions, advocate on the behalf of workers. Some groups may try to lend support for interests abroad, such as those for the backing of Israel.

Some advocacy groups may be even narrower in focus and concentrate on a few issues or a single issue. For example, Harry may hear from groups that advocate for cancer research or women's health. One advocacy group may support abortion rights and another group may oppose them. Likewise, groups that focus exclusively on gun rights and groups that focus on limiting or eliminating gun rights may approach Harry. Some groups focus on tax policy, and some groups focus on human rights. If you can think of a hot button political issue, there's probably an advocacy group out there that focuses on it.

Advocacy groups may be local, national, or international in focus. As a senator, local communities and interests at the municipal, county, and state level in Harry's state have an interest in trying to convince Harry to support legislation and policies that will benefit them. Local entities may be seeking federal funding for a major highway project or federal grants for city, county, or state programs. On the other hand, some groups may be focused on national issues, such as drug policy or national defense. Finally, some advocacy groups may seek support from Harry on international issues, such as issues of war, peace, terrorism, trade, and human rights.

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