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

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Published on November 26, 2023
A political party is an organized group seeking to gain political power, while an interest group aims to influence public policy without electing members to office.

Key Differences

A political party is an organized body of individuals who share common goals and work together to influence government and policy by getting their members elected to office. On the other hand, an interest group comprises people with common concerns or objectives, striving to influence legislators and public opinion without necessarily seeking electoral power.
The primary goal of a political party is to win elections, secure leadership positions, and implement policies aligned with their platform. In contrast, an interest group primarily focuses on advocating for specific issues, using various means like lobbying, public campaigns, and research to sway decisions.
While members of a political party typically adhere to a broad set of principles and address a wide range of issues, an interest group generally concentrates on specific topics or sectors, such as environment, business, or civil rights.
Political parties often have a national structure with local branches, actively participating in the electoral process and setting up candidates for office. Interest groups, meanwhile, might not participate directly in elections but play significant roles in shaping public policy through their specialized expertise and advocacy efforts.
It's worth noting that while political parties aim for broad public appeal to garner votes, interest groups target specific policymakers or sectors of the public, rallying support for their focused causes.

Comparison Chart

Primary Goal

Win elections and implement policies.
Influence public policy on specific issues.

Participation in Elections

Actively participates by fielding candidates.
Rarely fields candidates; focuses on advocacy.


Broad range of issues to appeal to the general public.
Specific topics or sectors.


National with local branches; hierarchical.
Can be formal or informal, often with specialized expertise.

Target Audience

General public for votes.
Policymakers, legislators, and specific sectors of the public.

Political Party and Interest Group Definitions

Political Party

Members of a political party often share ideological beliefs.
She joined the political party because of its progressive stance on healthcare.

Interest Group

Interest groups focus on niche areas or sectors.
An interest group for small businesses advocated for tax breaks.

Political Party

A political party is an organized group aiming to influence governance through elections.
The Democratic Party is a major political party in the United States.

Interest Group

An interest group can operate at various levels - local to international.
The global interest group pushed for human rights protections worldwide.

Political Party

Political parties advocate for a broad set of principles and policies.
The political party unveiled its platform for the upcoming election.

Interest Group

An interest group comprises individuals advocating for specific issues.
The environmental interest group lobbied against deforestation.

Political Party

A political party fields candidates to compete in elections.
The political party announced its candidate for the mayoral race.

Interest Group

Interest groups use lobbying and advocacy to influence policymakers.
The interest group hired a lobbyist to represent their cause in Congress.

Political Party

Political parties play pivotal roles in legislative and executive processes.
The majority political party in the Senate pushed for the bill's passage.

Interest Group

Interest groups might use research and reports to back their claims.
The interest group released a study highlighting the benefits of renewable energy.


Do political parties focus on specific or broad issues?

Political parties typically focus on broad issues to appeal to a wide range of voters.

Are interest groups aligned with specific political parties?

While some interest groups might lean towards a political party's ideology, they are independent entities focusing on specific issues.

What's the primary goal of a political party?

A political party's primary goal is to win elections and implement their policies.

How does an interest group influence policy?

An interest group influences policy through lobbying, advocacy, research, and public campaigns.

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

Yes, individuals can be members of both a political party and various interest groups.

Why might someone join an interest group?

Individuals might join an interest group to advocate for specific causes or issues they're passionate about.

Is it necessary for a political party to have a specific ideology?

While many political parties have specific ideologies, some might have a broad or mixed set of principles.

How are political parties funded?

Political parties are funded through donations, fundraising events, membership fees, and sometimes public funding.

How do political parties select their candidates?

Political parties select candidates through internal processes, which might include primaries, caucuses, or party conventions.

What methods do interest groups use to gain public support?

Interest groups use public campaigns, advertisements, research publications, and events to gain public support.

How do interest groups interact with the media?

Interest groups often use the media to disseminate information, present research, and advocate for their causes.

Are political parties permanent entities?

While some political parties have long histories, parties can change, merge, or dissolve based on various factors.

Can businesses form interest groups?

Yes, businesses often form or join interest groups to advocate for industry-specific concerns.

Why are interest groups essential in a democracy?

Interest groups provide specialized expertise, represent diverse voices, and ensure specific issues are addressed in the policymaking process.

Can members of a political party disagree on certain issues?

Yes, members within a political party can have differing views on specific issues, leading to internal debates and discussions.

Can interest groups form coalitions?

Yes, interest groups can form coalitions with other groups to amplify their influence on shared issues.

How do political parties influence executive decisions?

Political parties influence executive decisions when their members hold executive positions or through their majority in legislative bodies.

What is lobbying in the context of an interest group?

Lobbying is the act of influencing policymakers on behalf of an interest group's objectives or concerns.

How do political parties shape legislative processes?

Political parties shape legislative processes by proposing bills, setting legislative agendas, and voting on laws and policies.

Do all political parties have a chance to win elections?

While all political parties can compete, larger, established parties usually have a better chance due to resources, recognition, and broader appeal.
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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