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Political Parties vs. Interest Group: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Published on December 11, 2023
Political parties are organizations aiming to gain political power through elections, while interest groups influence public policy without seeking election.

Key Differences

Political parties primarily aim to win elections and govern, focusing on a broad range of issues. Interest groups, however, aim to influence public policy on specific issues without directly seeking governmental power.
Political parties encompass a wide range of issues, representing diverse viewpoints under a unified agenda. Whereas, interest groups focus narrowly on specific interests or policy areas, such as the environment or business.
Members of political parties often have diverse interests but share broader political ideologies. While, interest group members are united by specific issues or causes, regardless of their broader political beliefs.
Political parties participate directly in the electoral process, nominating candidates and contesting elections. Meanwhile, interest groups influence policy through lobbying, advocacy, and public campaigns, but do not contest elections.

Comparison Chart

Primary Goal

To win elections and govern
To influence public policy on specific issues

Approach to Issues

Broad, covering many areas
Focused on particular interests

Participation in Elections

Directly participate by fielding candidates
Do not field candidates but may endorse or oppose


Based on political ideology
Based on shared interest in specific issues

Role in Policy Making

Formulate and implement policies when in power
Lobby and advocate for policy changes

Political Parties and Interest Group Definitions

Political Parties

Political parties are organizations that represent specific political ideologies.
The political parties are preparing for the upcoming election.

Interest Group

They aim to influence public policy without seeking election.
Interest groups often meet with lawmakers to discuss their concerns.

Political Parties

They play a crucial role in the governance of a country.
Two major political parties dominate the country’s political landscape.

Interest Group

They organize campaigns to raise public awareness about issues.
The interest group launched a campaign to raise awareness about climate change.

Political Parties

Once in power, they are responsible for formulating and implementing policies.
The political parties are debating new healthcare policies.

Interest Group

Interest groups are organizations that advocate for specific policy issues.
The interest group lobbied for environmental regulations.

Political Parties

They represent the political views of a section of society.
Political parties often reflect the diverse opinions of their constituents.

Interest Group

They lobby government officials to achieve their objectives.
The interest group hired lobbyists to represent their cause.

Political Parties

They participate in elections to gain political power.
Political parties often have strong grassroots campaigns.

Interest Group

Focus on specific areas like business, environment, or education.
An interest group is campaigning for higher education funding.


What is a political party?

A political party is an organized group seeking to gain political power through elections.

Do political parties focus on single issues?

Political parties usually have broad agendas covering a range of issues.

How do political parties differ from interest groups?

Political parties aim to govern by winning elections, while interest groups aim to influence policy decisions.

What is an interest group?

An interest group is an organization that seeks to influence public policy on specific issues.

Can someone be a member of both a political party and an interest group?

Yes, individuals can be members of both, as they serve different purposes.

Are interest groups involved in elections?

Interest groups may endorse candidates but do not participate directly in elections.

Do interest groups represent specific communities?

Some interest groups represent specific communities, especially those focused on social or cultural issues.

Are political parties always aligned with left or right ideologies?

Political parties may align with a range of ideologies, not just left or right.

How do interest groups interact with the public?

Interest groups interact with the public through campaigns, awareness programs, and media.

How do political parties influence policy?

Political parties influence policy by winning elections and governing.

Do political parties have specific policy focuses?

While they may have key issues, political parties generally address a wide range of policies.

Do political parties have lobbyists?

Political parties themselves don’t typically employ lobbyists; their elected officials make and influence policy.

Can interest groups form political parties?

Interest groups can evolve into political parties if they decide to broaden their scope and seek political power.

What methods do interest groups use to influence policy?

Interest groups use lobbying, advocacy, and public campaigns to influence policy.

Can interest groups become political parties?

It's possible, but they would need to broaden their focus and participate in elections.

How are interest groups funded?

Interest groups are often funded by member dues, donations, and sometimes grants.

Are political parties essential for democracy?

Political parties are generally considered essential in representative democracies for organizing political activity.

Can interest groups be non-partisan?

Many interest groups are non-partisan, focusing solely on issues rather than political affiliations.

What role do political parties play in elections?

Political parties nominate candidates, campaign, and aim to win elections to govern.

How do political parties contribute to policy debates?

Political parties contribute by presenting different viewpoints and policy options in public debates.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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