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PUBPOL 301: Interest Groups

Political Analysis for Public Policy

Interest Groups

start here: Guide to Interest Groups and Lobbying

Identifying Interest Groups


Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program
Provides an index of the largest and most influential think tanks around the world.

GuideStarThis link opens in a new window
Useful for finding...nonprofits, with a summary of each organization's mission and programs, financial information and IRS Form 990s.

  • Use the Advanced Search to find orgs. by topical keyword and location

Open (Center for Responsive Politics)
Useful for finding…  Who’s giving how much to whom and trying to influence policy

  • Use Politicians and Elections tab for campaign finance;
  • or search for individual donor records using Donor Lookup (Quick Links)
  • Use the News & Analysis tab; see esp. Issue Profiles link at bottom, and the blog
  • Use the Lobbying tab for numbers of lobbyists, dollars spent, top firms and spenders
Mashup using data from Open Secrets and other reliable sources; match Congressional campaign contributions with legislators' votes on current bills; see aggregate interest group funding and where it went.

Washington Information Directory (2017-18)
Useful for finding…

  • Federal agencies, international organizations and NGOs in Washington D.C.
  • Federal department and agency organization charts


  • Use Advanced Search to choose types of organizations
  • See appendices for directory of government info on the Web, foreign embassies staff, and more.

ProQuest Congressional 
Useful for finding…Legislative histories, full-text of bills and laws, hearings, committee reports, and member profiles

Strategy: To find witnesses who testified on an issue, search Congressional Publications/Advanced Search, and check only the box for hearings

National Center for Charitable Statistics
Useful for finding...nonprofits, with a summary of each organization's mission and programs, financial information and IRS Form 990s. Similar to Guidestar; also has downloadable data on the nonprofit sector in the US.

Search Think Tanks & Research Institutes

Think Tank Search
From Harvard's Kennedy School of Government library; custom Google search + list of hundreds of US and international think tanks

Think tanks are defined by the above as institutions affiliated with universities, governments, advocacy groups, foundations, non-governmental organizations, and businesses that generate public policy research, analysis, and activity. 

Tips: Search these selected think tanks by keywords to find research and analysis.
If one seems most relevant to your topic, go to the home page and mine the site for publications, issues, research, and links to other organizations.

Political orientation of think tanks, per (2009)

Global Go To Think Tank Index (U Pennsylvania)

American Policy Directory (U Oregon)

Think Tank List (

Rating Congress

Interest Group Ratings of Members of Congress


Project Vote Smart 
Strategy: Find interest group ratings by state, then issue, with links to summaries of the organizations involved

CQ's Politics in America
also in print in Perkins (1945-present)

Useful for finding…

  • Descriptions of political careers and activities of current U.S. senators and representatives
  • Some interest group ratings, voting records, campaign financing and short pieces on the character of the member's district

Almanac of American Politics (National Journal)
Also in print in Perkins (1972-present)

Strategy: Ratings by 11 interest groups are given for each member; the groups are described in the Guide to Usage in the print edition.