Identity crisis: how interest groups struggle to define themselves in Washington

Heaney, M. T. (2007) Identity crisis: how interest groups struggle to define themselves in Washington. In: Cigler, A. J. and Loomis, B. A. (eds.) Interest Group Politics [7th ed.]. CQ Press: Washington DC, pp. 279-300. ISBN 9781933116761

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Interest groups face identity crises when citizens, members, staff, or legislators have a significantly different idea of what the group is about than does its leadership or membership. Issue niche theory asserts that groups modify their identities in response to these crises by narrowing their issue portfolios until they monopolise a specific area of public policy. Michael T. Heaney argues here that forming narrow issue niches is one, but not the only, strategy available to interest groups as they seek to manipulate their identities. For example, a group can instead attempt to create a broad issue niche in which it claims expertise over an entire domain of public policy like the environment, energy, health care, or transportation. Alternatively, a group can stress its role as the authentic representative of a constituency that is especially important to politicians. Or groups can attempt to modify their brand by changing their name, logo, or appearance. Heaney makes the case for a multidimensional theory of identity in which interest groups combine strategies pertaining to issue niches, representation, and branding to shape how they are understood. this approach broadens our understanding of how organizations act to become effective within the highly competitive context of interest group politics. Effective self-definition is often a recurring challenge on the long road to policy-making success.

Item Type:Book Sections
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Heaney, Dr Michael
Authors: Heaney, M. T.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences
Publisher:CQ Press
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