19 Advantages and Disadvantages of Interest Groups

Interest groups form when individuals seek to put their individual voices together into a collective organization that can fight for specific results. Many of them are created for specific issues so that there is a chance to influence public policies in specific ways. The goal of this work is to protect their way of life, promote new economic opportunities, and reduce the impact of adverse influences.

Individuals and companies can become part of an interest group. Some agencies form their own internal lobbying efforts as a way to avoid the sometimes negative perspectives that the general public has on this activity.

You can join an interest group to promote one issue or take care of multiple concerns with a single membership. All of that is up to the individual and the cause that they wish to support. You’ll find that there are several advantages and disadvantages to consider with this structure that may not make it an appealing choice to try in some situations.

It might also be the key that unlocks a better way of life for you and your family.

List of the Advantages of Interest Groups

1. Interest groups promote authentic freedom of expression.
Joining an interest group as an individual is a little like what happens when workers join a union. Instead of having one voice getting drowned out by a sea of others, you can add your ideas to the collective expression of everyone else who shares your perspective. This advantage gives you an opportunity to pursue topics of interest that impact your life in some way. Even unfavorable opinions receive more attention and action because you’re working with others instead of trying to do everything by yourself.

2. You can explore new perspectives.
Interest groups give all of us the chance to look at new thoughts, ideas, and perspectives. This advantage makes it easier to see the whole picture instead of only viewing what our echo chambers provide on social media and elsewhere. When you have more information available before it is time to make a decision, then you’re more likely to move in the correct direction because your movements happen because of logic, not emotion.

When legislation goes through the preparation process, the drafters look at the impact of any specific and identifiable groups. Then there is the consideration of what will happen with the population as a whole. When you are part of this process, then it is easier to see how others think and feel about specific subjects.

3. It is an effective way to balance the impact of governance.
The Founding Fathers of the United States incorporated a series of checks and balances when they created their government as a way to balance its impact. We can also take advantage of this concept when joining or working with interest groups. By coming together to speak with a collective voice, the powerful few in positions of authority can be held accountable for their actions. You get the chance to limit their power-grabbing habits, speak to them about concerning issues, and even vote them out of office if you feel like their representation is not satisfactory enough.

4. Group efforts become usable platforms that facilitate change.
Have you ever been told to “be the change you want to see” in your community? Joining an interest group can help to make that happen. You get to become part of a larger body of like-minded people who share their ideas whenever policies, rules, regulations, or legislation occurs that could be potentially harmful to what you would hope to accomplish. Being in the group creates opportunities to put enough pressure on the decision-makers in society to actually do something about what might need to change.

It is much more challenging to ignore a group of voices who say the same thing than a single person who is trying with all of their might to be heard. That’s why it becomes possible to create the changes you want to see.

5. There is an emphasis on fairness at the local level.
Fairness is a difficult concept to balance when you take it on at a societal level. Although every person born in our world has the same initial chance at success, the actual chances to create something better are minimal for billions of people. There are chronic problems of poverty, food insecurity, government corruption, freshwater availability, and more that adversely impact some people almost immediately. By the time they’re old enough to do something about their life, their chance to change their stars was already long gone.

Interest groups make it easier to equalize income opportunities in society. The same supports go to each member, creating a platform where everyone can start working toward a similar goal. It is much harder to ignore a group of people who push for this advantage than individuals.

6. It creates an opportunity to become community leaders.
If you wanted to become a community leader in the past, then you would have needed to run for public office or start a charitable organization to help others. Thanks to the influence of interest groups over the years, you can now become part of an organized movement that can communicate the need for specific changes in a community. You don’t even need to leave the comfort of your home to do so. Sharing information on social media, making a few phone calls, or consulting with the people who want to make positive changes in the community can be profoundly satisfying.

7. There is a higher level of information access.
When you join an interest group, then you have access to their resources on some level. That means you might get the chance to speak with your elected officials directly instead of sending them a letter. The chance to get active in politics can include coaching that can help you to run successfully one day if you want. This platform is an excellent opportunity to become a self-advocate while representing the needs of everyone else who is already in your group.

8. It is more affordable for the average person to lobby their government.
It doesn’t cost much to write a letter, put it in an envelope, and mail it with a stamp. The only problem with that form of lobbying is that the rate of success is rather low. You might get an acknowledgment letter from your elected officials and nothing more. The cost of influential lobbying could be millions of dollars if you wanted to tackle the problem by yourself. Tom Steyer plans to spend $100 million on a Presidential bid after already spending millions on pro-impeachment ads that target the Trump Administration.

When you join an interest group, then you can spread the cost around to each member. If a task costs $1 million to complete and you have 100,000 members, then everyone pitches in $10 to get the job done. That’s why it is such an effective way to campaign for the issues that you feel are important.

9. Interest groups can lobby for new legislation at any time.
The goal of an interest group is to spread information. Even though there is a concerted effort to turn that data into usable laws, rules, or regulations, these activities work to present people with another side of an issue that they might not have thought about previously. You can see this advantage in the United States all of the time when discussing gun rights vs. gun control and who is to blame for mass shootings and violence.

Each platform has members who are convinced that their approach is the correct one, so the goal on each side is to win over the undecideds while trying to influence elected officials to move toward the desired changes. This process allows everyone to process information in a meaningful way if they are willing to keep an open mind.

List of the Disadvantages of Interest Groups

1. The loudest voices usually win when interest groups are active.
One of the reasons why you see so many rapid-fire opinions spoken as loudly as possible in the media today is because the size of an interest group doesn’t matter. It is the ones who are the most active and generate the most attention who get the spoils in modern politics. One could argue that money also speaks loudly in this arena, so there are advantages to those who are wealthy. Public-sector unions, the NRA, the ACLU, and numerous private organizations all have wings that work to influence public law at the local, state, and national levels in the United States.

Both sides in American politics tend to blame each other for the ills of society. That activity falls under the banner of this disadvantage as well. Every group can make a small group of people sound like a majority when they really are not.

2. It is an easy way to stall all legislative processes.
As the number of interest groups rises in the United States, the levels of gridlock in governing grow right alongside those activities. The number of bills under consideration that are not going anywhere because there is no agreement possible as more than doubled in the last century. The reason why this disadvantage is such a problem is because each group seeks out what is in their best interest at the expense of everyone else. There is no desire to find compromise because it has become such an adversarial system. The only time that people are willing to cooperate is if there is no other choice but to do so, and even then, stalling tactics serve as a useful way to generate concessions from the other side.

This problem is one of the reasons why the approval rating for Congress has dropped below 10% multiple times in the past 20 years.

3. Most interest groups only focus on a single topic.
When you look at the messaging of the average interest group, there is only one topic of concern that receives discussion. Although anyone can join multiple groups to represent themselves, the moral decisions that each one makes works to divide individuals instead of working to unit them. If your opinion is even nuanced a little more than what makes the group comfortable, then you’ll find yourself on the outside looking in very quickly. This disadvantage is similar to the issue that the Christian church faces with its various denominations. You’re welcome to join, but if you believe something that is different, then your experience will be different than the person who buys in with all of their chips.

4. Some interest groups promote harmful activities.
The history of interest groups in the United States is not always one that created positive results. Lobbying helped to create a patchwork of slavery compromises before the Civil War. It has been able to keep the tobacco industry alive even though there are massive judgments against some of its top providers. Some of them even work to fuel government corruption still today.

One of the most influential groups is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spends over $100 million in many years to represent various industries and businesses. They push hard for pro-business policies, fight for de-regulation, and work to create a free market economy. Cheat Sheet also ranks the National Association of Realtors, Blue Cross Blue Shield, the American Hospital Association, and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association as the top 5 worst in this category.

5. Interest group leaders do not always act in the best interest of everyone.
Wayne LaPierre, the CEO of the National Rifle Association, had over 40 transactions at a Beverly Hills, CA boutique that totaled almost $275,000 in clothing purchases. Even though this spending habit occurred over a 13-year period, there were other charges associated with LaPierre that showed questionable spending habits of member money and donations. Another $267,000 was spent on travel and rent expenses, including $95,000 in trips during the 2012 holidays to Texas, California, and the Bahamas. At least $185,000 in undisclosed donations went to Youth for Tomorrow – a charity headed by LaPierre’s wife.

Other executives, such as Josh Powell, racked up more than $100,000 in personal expenses in a single year. It is up to each person who decides to get involved with interest groups to determine if their spending activities lines up to the lobbying work that you want them to accomplish.

6. Governing systems can change because of interest groups.
When an interest group grows large enough, or several of them band together, then their activities can change how a nation governs itself. This disadvantage is problematic because it forces everyone outside of that core group to either conform to the “new normal” or risk the consequences of being on the outside. The Hulu original series The Handmaid’s Tale shows this disadvantage to the extreme in a fictional way when the Sons of Jacob take over the American government across a majority of the continental 48.

This issue is why interest groups form in the first place, but it is also an indication as to how quickly they can become dangerous.

7. Interest groups can focus more on the money than the outcome of their work.
Although the formation of interest groups is intended to help produce equality for the average individual when offering ideas or opinions, the result tends to reflect the same focus on money that the government has already. The groups that have control over the most resources will usually have the most impact on the legislative bodies that they contact. The groups who operate on a minimal budget have no meaningful way to stay competitive.

When you decide to join with others to create a combined voice, then you can indeed make your opinion louder. It still won’t change the fact that it is the money that typically gets elected officials to begin listening.

8. Many interest groups do not elect their leadership.
LaPierre first joined the NRA in 1978, and those closest to him said that he really didn’t know anything about guns at the time. When he wrote a letter in 1995 that attempted to raise funds by calling federal agents “jack-booted government thugs,” even President George H.W. Bush renounced his membership. Closed-door voting elects the president of the organization and either reaffirm the CEO or selects a new one. If you’re part of the membership, but not on the board, then you don’t get a voice in that selection process.

That process is followed by conservative and liberal interest groups across the United States. You can join in with other voices when you’re part of the organizational process, but that doesn’t mean someone will actually want to hear what you want to say.

9. Interest groups favor the incumbent.
Most lobbying efforts for new regulations by interest groups involve a limitation on the number of competitors that are possible in each industry. The goal is to provide advantages to those who are currently practicing by limiting the number of new disrupters that want to get into the field. Firms that are large and established can easily afford the cost of new regulatory requirements, especially if that expense works to limit the number of new firms that enter into competition with them each year. Start-ups don’t have the same level of capital. The people who resist development usually already have access to the enjoyment of amenities and don’t want to share the bounty.

10. Size works against the message of the interest group.
In the years before the Civil War, farmers made up more than 60% of the working people in the United States. At the turn of the 20th century, that figure dropped to 41%. Now it is less than 2%, yet no one would deny the influence of this agricultural industry on the government because of the influence of their interest groups. When there are large groups of people who try to work together, then their definition of self-awareness is more generic so that the one-voice advantage can achieve the maximum impact. If a group is smaller, then there can be more specificity with the approach toward legislation and governing.


Interest groups can be a positive force for change in a community. They can also be the foundation of problems when a loud few can override the majority. Anyone can use this structure to create peaceful conversations that help to further individual knowledge in any area.

These groups can also become a way to unduly force people toward a specific outcome even if the result is not what is wanted. Democratic supporters of the NRA have found this issue out in recent years, and the faced sharp criticism if they tried to speak out.

The advantages and disadvantages of interest groups are ultimately what each person hopes to accomplish with this societal structure. Anyone can use it to help create the changes they want to see. It can also become the foundation of problematic behaviors that can be challenging to stifle.

Author Biography
Keith Miller has over 25 years of experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.