Linkage Institutions

“Government” may seem too abstract, complicated, and large for a regular person to feel like they can make a change or have their voice heard. How can the average citizen who has an opinion or an idea ever make an impact?

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Table of contents

    In Our democracy, linkage institutions are those access points where people can express themselves and try to get their concerns on the government’s policy agenda: the place where decisive action on a topic is taken.

    If you have an idea in America—you could go straight to the media. If you wanted to work to get Congress to pass a law that benefited your particular area of industry, you could join an interest group. Americans can become members of political parties and elect politicians that best represent them. Linkage Institutions forge the bridge between citizens and policymakers.

    Linkage Institutions Definition

    The definition of Linkage Institutions is organized groups that interact with government to shape policy. Linkage institutions connect people with government and are political channels through which people’s concerns can become policy issues on the policy agenda.

    Policy: The course of action the government takes. Policy includes laws, regulations, taxes, military action, budgets, and court decisions.

    It can take a long time for the public’s opinion on an issue to become important to the government. Linkage institutions filter through the opinions and put them on the policy agenda.

    Policy Agenda: In the American policymaking system, citizens’ concerns are expressed through linkage institutions and then the issues the linkage institutions choose to address form the policy agenda: the issues that attract the attention of public officials and other people in places of political power.

    Four Linkage Institutions

    In the United States, linkage institutions include elections, political parties, interest groups, and the media. Linkage institutions inform, organize, and garner support to influence government. They offer ways to participate in the political process. They are channels that allow citizens to communicate their opinions to policymakers.

    Linkage Institutions Examples

    Linkage institutions are the organizations through which citizen’s voices can be heard and expressed. They are a cornerstone of democracy and a way for people to participate politically. Linkage institutions are ways that citizens can influence policy-makers and have a say in the decisions that affect their daily lives.

    Examples of linkage institutions are:

    Elections

    Elections serve as a linkage institution between citizens who exercise their right to vote and politicians who wish to be elected to political office. The most common form of political participation is voting. Voting and elections serve as a voice of the people, connecting the choices of citizens to the running of government. When a citizen casts a ballot in an election, the process serves as a link between the opinion of the citizen and who controls the government.

    Media

    Americans live in a republic, a form of government where politicians are elected to represent us. We live in indirect democracy because it’s impractical to practice direct democracy in a country as large as the U.S. In fact, no country practices direct democracy.

    Because we’re not at our capital every day, we rely on the media to inform us of what is happening in government. The media links us to the government by informing us about government activities; for that reason, the media is a major force in U.S. politics. The media wields tremendous power as a linkage institution because media can place items on the policy agenda. By spotlighting certain policy areas, the media can shift the public’s attention and shape public opinion.

    Interest Groups

    Interest groups are organized groups of citizens with shared policy goals. The right to organize groups is protected by the First Amendment and is an essential part of the democratic process. Interest groups link people to the government and are policy specialists. They advocate for their particular interest and attempt to achieve policy goals, Interest groups provide an access point for citizens to have their concerns heard.

    Political Parties

    Linkage Institutions, Democratic logo, StudySmarterFig. 1, Democratic Party logo, Wikimedia Commons

    Political parties are groups of people with similar policy goals and similar political ideologies. They are policy generalists who work to get people elected into political office so that their party can control the direction of the government. The United States has historically had a two-party system-Democrats and Republicans. The two parties compete for control of public offices.

    Linkage Institutions, GOP logo, StudySmarterFig. 2, Republican Party branding, Wikimedia Commons

    Linkage Institutions Political Parties

    I was no party man myself, and the first wish of my heart was, if parties did exist, to reconcile them." - President George Washington


    George Washington's dream for a country with no political division did not come true, but political parties do serve an important role in our country. Political parties are a significant linkage institution. They connect citizens to the government by educating voters about policy issues and informing voters of their choices. Citizens can examine political party platforms to understand party issue stances and join a political party that aligns most closely with their values.

    Political parties connect citizens to the government in several ways and have four main functions:

    Mobilization and Education of Voters

    Political parties want to enlarge their membership and encourage party members to vote in elections because winning elections is essential in implementing their party policy goals. Political parties hold voter-registration drives to get as many people as possible to join their party ranks. On election day, party volunteers will even offer to drive people to the polls. Parties also attempt to inform voters of government activities. If a political party is out of power, they serve as the watchdog of the party in power, often publicly criticizing the opposition party.

    Create Platforms

    Each political party has a platform that defines their stances on major policy areas. The platform lists the party’s ideology—a list of beliefs and policy goals.

    Recruit Candidates and Help Manage Campaigns

    Parties want to control the government, and the only way to do that is by winning elections. Parties recruit talented candidates who will appeal to their party base. They help with campaigns by encouraging voters, holding campaign rallies, and helping to raise money.

    Govern with the Goal of Implementing their Party’s Goals.

    People in office look to their fellow party members for support. Parties are essential for achieving policy between the legislative and executive branches.

    Interest Groups Linkage Institutions

    Interest groups seek to influence public policy. America is a diverse county with many races, religions, traditions, cultures, and beliefs. Because of this great diversity, there are a variety of interests and opinions, resulting in thousands of interest groups. Interest groups provide Americans with the opportunity to gain access to the government and have their issues brought to the forefront of the political policy agenda. For that reason, interest groups are considered linkage institutions. Examples of interest groups include the National Rifle Association, the National Organization for Women, and the Anti-Defamation League.

    Linkage Institutions - Key takeaways

    • Linkage Institution: Organized groups that interact with the government to shape policy.
    • In the United States, linkage institutions include elections, political parties, interest groups, and the media.
    • Political parties are linkage institutions that connect citizens to policymakers through educating and mobilizing voters, recruiting candidates, persuading voters, creating platforms, and running the government while in power.
    • It can take a long time for the public’s opinion on an issue to become important to the government. Linkage institutions filter through the opinions and put them on the policy agenda.
    • Linkage institutions are the organizations through which citizen’s voices can be heard and expressed.
    • Interest groups provide Americans with the opportunity to gain access to the government and have their issues brought to the forefront of the political policy agenda.

    References

    1. Fig. 1, By Gringer - http://www.democrats.org/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11587115https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_Party_(United_States)
    2. Fig. 2, Republican party branding (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Republican_Party_(United_States) by GOP.com (https://gop.com/) In Public Domain
    Frequently Asked Questions about Linkage Institutions

    What are linkage institutions?

    Linkage Institutions are organized groups that interact with the government to shape policy.

    How do linkage institutions help connect people to their government?

    Linkage institutions connect people with the government and are political channels through which people’s concerns can become policy issues on the policy agenda.

     What are the 4 linkage institutions?

    In the United States, linkage institutions include elections, political parties, interest groups, and the media.

    How do political parties connect linkage institutions to policymakers?

    Political parties are linkage institutions that connect citizens to policymakers through educating and mobilizing voters, recruiting candidates, persuading voters, creating platforms, and running the government while in power.

    Why are linkage institutions important?

    Linkage institutions are the organizations through which citizen’s voices can be heard and expressed.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    True or False: America is a diverse nation; therefore we have many interest groups? 

    Why are linkage institutions important?

    Interest groups seek to influence?

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