Political Parties and Interest Groups

Political Parties and Interest Groups

Political Science 421

Political Parties and Interest Groups

UTK, Miniterm 2006



Course: 1-4PM, HSS 118

Instructor: Anthony Nownes

Office: 811 McClung Tower

Telephone: 974-7052


Web Page: http://web.utk.edu/~anownes

Office Hours: MWF 12-1PM, or by appointment



Government in America is large and complex. Sometimes it seems as though “the little guys”—people like you and me—are powerless against a large and active government. But this is not the case. The American system of government is founded upon the notion that ordinary Americans have some control over what government does. The most common way that ordinary Americans exert control over government decisions is by voting. But there are other ways that citizens affect government.

This course examines two linkage institutions through which citizens (and others) attempt to affect government decisions—political parties, and interest groups. The first half of the course considers interest groups—non-party organizations that attempt to influence what government does. We will examine what interest groups are, what interest groups do, and the extent to which interest groups affect government decisions. The second half of the course considers political parties—organizations that attempt to control government by nominating candidates for office. We will examine what parties do, how they operate, and the extent to which they connect voters to government.

The overall theme of the course is as follows: Political parties and interest groups are important linkage institutions in America, and to understand American politics we must understand where they come from, what they do, and how they influence government decisions.


The following items are available for purchase at the University Bookstore:

  • Jeffrey M. Berry. 1997. The Interest Group Society, Third Edition. New York: Longman.
  • Paul S. Herrnson, Ronald G. Shaiko, and Clyde Wilcox, eds. 2005. The Interest Group Connection: Electioneering, Lobbying, and Policymaking in Washington, Second Edition. Washington, DC: CQ Press.
  • William J. Keefe, and Marc J, Hetherington. 2003. Parties, Politics, and Public Policy in America. Washington, DC: CQ Press.

I may provide supplemental reasons as well.



I will calculate your grade as follows:

A = 900 – 1000 points

B+ = 870 - 899 points

B = 800 – 869 points

C+ = 770 – 799 points

C = 700 – 769 points

D+ = 670 – 699 points

D = 600 – 669 points

F = 599 points or less

You will earn points as follows:

200 points for 5 reaction papers

200 points for 2 big quizzes

200 points for the final exam

400 points for two midterm exams




I will not tolerate cheating. I expect you to be familiar with the University of Tennessee Honor Statement and to abide by its terms. The entire Honor Statement can be found in Hilltopics.


I will not tolerate plagiarism. The following is an excerpt from the University of Tennessee’s Honor Statement, which can be found in Hilltopics Student Handbook, which is the official student handbook of the University of Tennessee:

“Students are also responsible for any act of plagiarism. Plagiarism is using the intellectual property or product of someone else without giving proper credit. The undocumented use of someone else’s words or ideas in any medium of communication (unless such information is recognized as common knowledge) is a serious offense, subject to disciplinary action that may include failure in a course and/or dismissal from the University. Specific examples of plagiarism are: 1. Copying without proper documentation (quotation marks and a citation) written or spoken words, phrases, or sentences from any source; 2. Summarizing without proper documentation (usually a citation) ideas from another source (unless such information is recognized as common knowledge); 3. Borrowing facts, statistics, graphs, pictorial representations, or phrases without acknowledging the source (unless such information is recognized as common knowledge); 4. Collaborating on a graded assignment without the instructor’s approval; 5. Submitting work, either in whole or in part, created by a professional service and used without attribution (e.g., paper, speech, bibliography, or photograph).” p. 11

For more on plagiarism and other forms of academic misconduct, consult Hilltopics, pp. 11-23.

Accommodations for students with disabilities:

I am committed to making all necessary accommodations for students with disabilities. Students with disabilities are urged to contact the Office of Disability Services (2227 Dunford hall, 974-6087) to learn more about their rights and responsibilities. Here is an excerpt from Hilltopics about the Office:

“The mission of the Office of Disability Services is to provide each student who has a disability an equal opportunity to participate in the University’s programs and activities. The ODS provides all students who have documented disabilities assistance with appropriate accommodations. ODS obtains and files disability-related documents, certifies eligibility for services, determines reasonable accommodations, and develops plans for the provision of such accommodations. It is the student’s responsibility to request any individual assistance in advance.” p. 47

Talking in class:

This class will involve a great deal of discussion. However, you are to speak only when recognized by me. Furthermore, you may NOT talk when someone else (including me) is speaking.

Some information about reaction papers:

Each reaction paper should be 1-2 pages long. A reaction paper is (surprise!) a summary of your reaction to some material you have read. A typical reaction paper summarizes what you have read, but also addresses other questions. Among the questions you might consider are the following: What was the most important thing you learned? Was anything unclear? Was anything left out that you think should have been included? You are free to address other questions as well.


Week 1

Wednesday, May 10Introduction: What is an Interest Group? What is a Political Party?

Read: Berry, Chapter 1; Keefe and Hetherington, Chapter 1.

Thursday, May 11The Interest Group Universe. Where Do Interest Groups Come

From? Quiz #1.

Read: Berry, Chapters 2-4.

Friday, May 12 Where Do Interest Groups Come From? Part II. Reaction paper #1


Week 2

Monday, May 15Test #1; Introduction to Lobbying.

Read: Berry, Chapter 5; Herrnson, et al, Chapter 1.

Tuesday, May 16Lobbying, Part 1.

Read: Berry, Chapter 8; Herrnson, et al, Chapters 7, 13, 14, and 17.

Reaction paper #2 DUE

Wednesday, May 17Lobbying, Part 2.

Read: Berry, Chapters 6 and 7; Herrnson et al, Chapters 2, 3.

Thursday, May 18The Influence of Interest Groups.

Read: Berry, Chapters 9 and 10; Herrnson et al, Chapter 16.

Friday May, 19Interest Groups: Good or Bad? Quiz #2.

Read: Herrnson et al, Chapter 20. Reaction paper #3 DUE

Week 3

Monday, May 22Introduction to Political Parties.

Read: Keefe and Hetherington, Chapters 1 and 2.

Tuesday, May 23Parties and Nominations.

Read: Keefe and Hetherington, Chapter 3. Reaction paper #4 DUE

Wednesday, May 24Parties and Campaign Finance.

Read: Keefe and Hetherington, Chapter 4.

Thursday, May 25Test #2; Parties and Voters, Part 1.

Read: Keefe and Hetherington, Chapter 6.

Friday, May 26Parties and Voters, Part 2. Reaction paper #5 DUE

Week 4

Monday, May 29 Memorial Day Holiday

Tuesday, May 30Parties in Government. Parties: Irrelevant or Not?

Read: Keefe and Hetherington, Chapters 5 and 7 . Reaction

paper #6 DUE

Wednesday, May 31 Last Day. Final exam.