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Political Parties and Interest Groups

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caucus (congressional)
An association of members of Congress created to advocate a political ideology or a regional, ethnic, or economic interest.
congressional campaign committee
A party committee in Congress that provides funds to members who are running for reelection or to would-be members running for an open seat or challenging a candidate from the opposition party.
cue (political)
A signal telling a congressional representative what values (for example, liberal or conservative) are at stake in a vote—who is for, who is against a proposal—and how that issue fits into his or her own set of political beliefs or party agenda.
According to James Madison, a group of people who seek to influence public policy in ways contrary to the public good.
federal money
Money raised to support the campaign of a candidate for federal office. Amounts are regulated by federal law.
ideological party
A party that values principled stands on issues above all else, including winning. It claims to have a comprehensive view of American society and government radically different from that of the established parties.
interest group
An organization of people sharing a common interest or goal that seeks to influence public policy.
Persons who try to influence legislation on behalf of an interest group.
material incentives
Benefits that have monetary value, including money, gifts, services, or discounts received as a result of one’s membership in an organization.
national chairman
A paid, full-time manager of a party’s day-to-day work who is elected by the national committee.
national committee
A committee of delegates from each state and territory that runs party affairs between national conventions.
national convention
A meeting of party delegates—elected in state primaries, caucuses, or conventions—that is held every four years. Its primary purpose is to nominate presidential and vice-presidential candidates and to ratify a campaign platform.
personal following
The political support provided to a candidate on the basis of personal popularity and networks.
pluralist theory politics
A theory that competition among all affected interests shapes public policy.
plurality system
An electoral system, used in almost all American elections, in which the winner is the candidate who gets the most votes, even if he or she does not receive a majority of the votes.
political efficacy
A citizen’s sense that he or she can understand and influence politics
political machine
A party organization that recruits its members by dispensing patronage—tangible incentives such as money, political jobs, an opportunity to get favors from government and that is characterized by a high degree of leadership control over member activity.
political party
A group that seeks to elect candidates to public office by supplying them with a label—a “party identification”—by which they are known to the electorate.
proportional representation
A voting system in which representatives in a legislature are chosen by the proportion of all votes each candidate (or each candidate’s party) gets.
public interest lobby
A political organization, the stated goals of which will principally benefit nonmembers.
purposive incentive
The benefit that comes from serving a cause or principle from which one does not personally benefit.
single-member districts
Legislative districts from which one representative is chosen.
soft money
Money raised by political parties for activities other than directly supporting a federal candidate.
An incentive that relies on friendship or sociability.
solidary incentives
The social rewards that lead people to join local or state political organizations. People who find politics fun and want to meet others who share their interests are said to respond to solidary incentives.