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Linkage Institutions: Definition & Examples Video

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  • 0:00 Linkage Institutions
  • 0:50 Media: It's Everywhere
  • 1:37 Interest Groups:…
  • 2:29 Political Parties:…
  • 3:20 Elections:…
  • 4:21 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Prokes

Chris is an instructional designer and college faculty member. He has a Master's Degree in Education and also umpires baseball.

Linkage institutions are a mostly informal, yet vital, part of the American political process, connecting average citizens to their representatives. In this lesson, you'll learn about some examples of these institutions and their role in the United States' democracy.

Linkage Institutions

Have you ever watched political coverage on your TV or on the Internet? It seems like there is always something happening. As citizens, we have a right to know what is going on at all levels of government, from local to federal. But there is so much to keep up with that you might often feel lost or unable to figure out what's happening.

Fortunately, there are many ways the average person can find political information relevant to him or her. One way is through the use of or participation in linkage institutions, which are very important in connecting citizens to all levels of government. While not formally part of government, their presence is part of what makes political systems work.

There are four main types of linkage institutions: media, interest groups, political parties, and elections. Let's explore some of the ways these linkage institutions enable citizens to connect to their government.

Media: It's Everywhere

Media is everywhere in today's world. Whether it's television, newspapers, books and magazines, the Internet and social media, or other forums, citizens can find out a ton about the political process. Perhaps it's which candidates are running for office, what their platform and ideas might be, and even election results. Please keep in mind, however, that a media source may try to tell you that one candidate is better than another, which is called bias.

Role of media as a linkage institution
Media role

Once an official is elected, the media tells you what the politician has been up to, good or bad. This might include information about laws passed, debates and speeches, and appearances for their constituents. Media sources also usually offer an opinion on a politician's performance. In many ways, the media is a watchdog of politicians.

Interest Groups: Expressing Preferences

Many groups exist with the primary mission of protecting a particular set of concerns they hold near and dear about a politically relevant topic. Called interest groups, or lobby groups, they are seemingly countless in both quantity and the issues they fight for. They can represent groups of issues or groups of people. Some well-known examples of very influential interest groups include The National Organization of Women, The United Farm Workers of America, and the National Rifle Association.

Examples of interest groups
interest groups

There are many ways in which interest groups impact government. Some of these include raising money for a candidate who supports their mission, trying to persuade voters to elect a certain candidate, or attempting to influence what laws are passed. Interest groups use many approaches, including letter writing, appearing in the media, or using grassroots methods, which are attempts to rally people around them starting at a minimal level, like at a small town meeting.

Political Parties: Divisiveness

Political parties are the most divisive type of linkage institutions, and they are at the forefront of the United States' democracy. The two major political parties in the U.S. are the Democrats and the Republicans. Political parties tend to be a bit more general in their beliefs when compared to interest groups. For example, the Republican Party might have a set of beliefs and ideologies that align with dozens of interest groups. The ultimate goal of each party is to get as many of their members elected as possible to control what the government does.

From left to right, unofficial Republican and Democrat logos
Political Parties

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