5.3 Political Parties

6 min readjanuary 30, 2023



AP US Government 👩🏾‍⚖️

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Linkage Institutions

A linkage institution is an organization that connects different parts of a society and helps to facilitate communication and cooperation between them. This can include government agencies, non-profit organizations, business groups, and other types of institutions that play a role in linking different stakeholders and promoting cooperation towards common goals. They are vehicles that connect people with the government by allowing them to communicate their preferences to policy making institutions. The AP US Government exam explores four linkage institutions--political parties, interest groups, elections, and the media 📰. Each of the institutions serve an important role in helping shape public opinion and policy.

Political parties

Political parties represent different political ideologies and interests. They sere as a platform for the variety of worldviews, allowing citizens to identify with and support a particular party that aligns with their values and beliefs. Political parties mobilize voters, raise awareness about issues, and influence public opinion through their political campaigns, rallies, and platforms. They foster democratic participation as they provide citizens with the opportunity to take part in the democratic process by supporting and electing candidates, contributing to campaigns, and becoming involved in party activities. Political parties also facilitate governance by supporting and passing legislation, and making decisions that affect the nation.

Interest groups

Interest groups represent specific interests as they serve as a platform for advocacy (e.g. for environmental protection, labor rights, or gun rights). They influence public policy as they use their resources and expertise to educate and ensure that policy-makers will follow up on issues that are important to their embers and to advocate for specific policy outcomes. Interest groups provide policy-makers with information and research about the issues that are being discussed. They also foster democratic participation as they provide citizens with the opportunity to take part in advocacy efforts and become involved in lobbying activities.
Some of the public interest groups in the United States include the National Organization for Women, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and many more. They all can be found in government websites--one of the signs for the importance interest groups have in the democratic process.


They allocate political power as they determine who will hold political office and make decisions that affect the nation, allowing citizens to have a say in who will represent their interests. Elections how elected officials accountable to their constituents, as citizens have the opportunity to vote them out of office if they are not satisfied with their performance. They provide a competitive framework for political parties and candidates to compete for the support of voters and advocate for their ideas and policies. Elections also encourage citizen participation by providing opportunities for voters to cast their ballots and make their voices heard in the political process.


Media in the US serves as a linkage institution by connecting citizens with their government and providing a means for the dissemination of information and the formation of public opinion. It provides citizens with information about current events, political issues, and policies, allowing them to stay informed and make informed decisions. Media is notorious for the way it shapes public opinion. It frames issues (which determines how they are perceived and understood by the public), select and emphasize certain news (which shapes public perceptions of what is important and what is not), influence opinions through storytelling (e.g. by portraying political leaders and issues in a positive or negative light), and shapes political discourse (which determines what issues are discussed and how they are discussed). Furthermore, media serves as a watchdog for government, investigating and reporting on government actions, and holding elected officials accountable for their actions. It also provides a platform for democratic debate, allowing citizens and policy-makers to engage in open discussion and exchange of ideas.

Functions and Impact of Political Parties

Mobilization and education of voters

An ongoing goal of political parties is to attract more members to the party so as to strengthen the chance that their preferred candidates will get elected in future elections. Party workers and volunteers actively recruit new members by making phone calls 📱, sending emails and automated text messages, and even go door-to-door to persuade potential voters. In the past decade, parties have increasingly utilized social media to broaden their coalitions, purchasing online ad space and creating official party accounts to connect with current and potential members. In the weeks leading up to an election, parties send large numbers of supporters into local neighborhoods 🏡 to connect directly with voters by handing out brochures, answering questions about their preferred candidates, and to spread the overall vision 👀 of the party.

Party platforms

Political parties in the United States develop party platforms in an effort to represent the views of the millions of voters who identify with a party. The platforms are written every four years and are essentially a mega list of the party’s beliefs and goals for the next presidential term. Major themes within the Republican Party 🟥 platform include heavy investments in national defense, lower taxes, and fewer restrictions on businesses, while the Democratic Party 🟦 platform reflects a desire to actively use the government to solve pressing issues—including but not limited to minority rights, environmental restrictions, and increased regulations on businesses. The platforms are communicated at each party’s national conventions 🎉 and are important for party leaders in their attempt to hold their preferred candidate accountable.

Candidate Recruitment & Campaign Management

Parties are always on the lookout for potential candidates at all levels of government—federal (president, Congress), state (governors, state senators and assemblymen and women), and local (mayors, school board, city council). Party leaders actively recruit people who are informed, personable, and electable. Once candidates are recruited, party leaders help manage campaigns by holding events, fundraising 🤑, and attempting to engage and excite voters for the upcoming election to increase turnout. 
Party leaders are in a tricky position during the nomination phase of an election, since multiple candidates from the same party are all vying for the same position. Acting more as a traffic cop 👮, parties help facilitate the process by sponsoring debates between candidates and offering general support. Once a nominee is declared, party leaders and rank and file members typically rally around the candidate during the general election. Common practices during the general election phase include: planning and holding rallies and fundraisers; making phone calls 📱, sending emails, and social media posts; distributing campaign SWAG—bumper stickers 🚙, pins, yard signs, and buttons; and purchasing TV 📺, radio, and internet  ads—either supporting their candidate or attacking 😠 their opponent.
Campaign management (including fundraising and media strategy) helps to communicate and promote the ideology and platform of a political party, reflecting the party's values and beliefs. It helps to mobilize party supporters and voters, reflecting the strength and organizational capability of the party. Campaign management plays a role in determining party strategy, including the allocation of resources, the targeting of key electoral groups, and the development of campaign messages. It is crucial because it shapes the image of the given political candidate, which reflects the party's priorities and values and promotes a candidate who best represents the party's platform. Finally, campaign management can also help to build party infrastructure, such as creating a network of volunteers, supporters, and donors, which can be used to support future campaigns and party initiatives.

Committee and party leadership systems in legislatures

Committee assignments and party leadership positions reflect the ideological divisions within a legislative body, with members being appointed to committees and elected to leadership positions based on their alignment with party ideology. They play a role in shaping the legislative agenda, with committees determining which bills are considered and party leaders determining the priority and focus of legislative initiatives. Committee and party leadership systems also play a role in influencing legislative action, with committees making recommendations on bills and party leaders determining the pace and outcome of legislative negotiations and voting. The distribution of committees reflects the relative strength of political parties within a legislative body, and can impact the ability of parties to achieve their legislative goals. Furthermore, it helps promoting party cohesion by giving party leaders a means of enforcing party discipline and ensuring that members vote in accordance with party positions.
📽️ Watch: AP Gov - Political Parties Crash Course

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