America's Largest Interest Group and Its Impact

by Christine L. Day


How did AARP grow from a small, service-oriented organization to a political power with critics on the right and left?

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Cover image for AARP

October 2017


Pages 259
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Politics, Law, and Government/General
  Politics, Law, and Government/U.S. Public Policy and Administration

This examination of the history, development, activities, successes, and limitations of the largest membership organization in the country will be of interest to anyone who belongs to or is curious about this sometimes-controversial group.

AARP is one of Washington's most influential interest groups, but just who does it represent? To some, it represents the narrow special interests of older Americans who already consume more than their share of government benefits. To others, its advocacy encompasses everyone, including those with elderly parents and grandparents—and those who will comprise the older generations of the future.

The most comprehensive volume ever written about AARP, the book begins with a chapter on the organization's history, going back to its founding in 1958 and its roots in the National Retired Teachers Association, established in 1947. Readers will learn about AARP's membership and chapter activities, including how it grew to be the largest membership organization in the country. Perhaps even more engrossing is the book's investigation of the nature and extent of AARP's political influence and its positions and priorities as it struggles to represent a large and diverse constituency. Finally, the study discusses AARP's organizational model, which combines political advocacy, business, and charity, and probes the controversies arising from what AARP's critics charge are conflicts of interest.


  • Examines AARP's growth from small service organization to a political powerhouse
  • Scrutinizes the relationship between AARP's political activities and its commercial enterprises
  • Explains how AARP has become a major player in Washington, even without a PAC for campaign contributions
  • Explores AARP's moderating influence in an increasingly polarized political landscape, despite political attacks from both right and left
  • Looks at the role of incentives and local chapters in recruiting and mobilizing the organization's massive membership base
  • Provides an up-to-date account of AARP's political activities in the wake of its support for the Affordable Care Act
Author Info

Christine L. Day, PhD, is professor of political science at the University of New Orleans. She is author of What Older Americans Think: Interest Groups and Aging Policy and coauthor of Women's PACs: Abortion and Elections. Day has also published numerous articles on interest-group politics, particularly related to aging policy and women's rights.



"[This] examination of AARP's omnipresence during different periods of health care reform over the years is first-rate. Given AARP's influence on American politics, Day's study provides an excellent resource for anyone interested in how it came to power, how it seeks to wield power, and how it has affected multiple policies over the years. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty."Choice

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