Government & Politics Unit 1: Pressure Groups Revision

Outline to essential questions and answers on the Pressure Groups topic. Questions which are likely to come up in exams, or similar. 

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Pressure group questions ­ summaries
What is a pressure group?
An organisation which seeks to influence the details of a comparatively small range of public
policies which is not a faction of a recognised party.
They influence decisions
They may seek to influence not just the decisions themselves but also the details of those
decisions and even their implementation
They operate on a relatively narrow range of issues- this may be single issues such as
Fathers4Justice or a whole cluster of issues.
They operate at different levels of government. They must first identify where key decisions
are made and then apply their pressure in that location whether it be at levels of Parliament
or local government. It can also involve the judiciary because there may be disputes to do
with the law.
Describe briefly any TWO types of pressure group
Sectional or interest groups ­ those which represent a specific section of society. They are
self-interested and thus concerned only with promoting the best interests of their members.
The best examples are trade unions, medical groups are also prominent.
Cause, issue or promotional groups ­ Do not have a specific section of the community to
represent. They claim to be serving the interests of the whole community. They have one
issue or a cluster of issues they are seeking to promote. The most obvious examples are
Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth. They may be temporary such as the Anti Poll Tax
Federation which ceased to exist once it had successfully got rid of the poll tax.
Outline FOUR functions of pressure groups
They play a key part in the governing process. Their involvement at all stages of the policy
and decision-making process helps to inform the government itself and ensures that the
interests and views of sections of the public are taken into account. In this sense they can
improve the quality of policy making.
They have a representative function. Either they represent specific sections of the public or
they claim to represent the best interests of the whole community.
Pressure groups help to educate and inform the public about politically important issues.
(They also try to educate and inform governing institutions.)
They provide a less intensive but more relevant opportunity for political participation than
political parties.
Distinguish between a pressure group and a party
Pressure groups do not seek to gain power, whereas parties do.
Parties are bound by the law and have to engage in a completely law abiding process, this is
not the case for pressure groups.
Pressure groups tend to have a narrow range of issues; parties adopt policies across full
range of government responsibility.
Parties have to be accountable for their policies, pressure groups do not.

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Distinguish between a sectional and a promotional (cause) pressure group
Sectional pressure groups represent a specific section of society. They are self-interested
and thus concerned only with promoting the best interests of their members. The best
examples are trade unions. One can look to medical groups as also being prominent- they
represent members who are suffering from specific diseases or conditions.
Promotional (cause) pressure groups do not have a specific section of the community to
represent.…read more

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Mobilising public support ­ high profile campaigning, the organisation of public
demonstrations, publicity stunts e.g. Countryside Alliance's mass campaigning in support of
fox hunting.
Incorporation or insider status ­ they can therefore expect to exert considerable influence,
but with responsibilities. E.g. National Farmers' Union, National Trust.
Fighting elections ­ new phenomenon of putting pressure group candidates up for election
seen during the 1997 general election with the Referendum party.…read more

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They act as an effective channel of communication between the government and the
governed, articulating demands and mobilising support for them.
They provide wide opportunity for people to participate in the political process without
having to dedicate excessive amounts of time.
They ensure minority groups and interests are represented within the political system. E.g.
the NSPCC- children can't vote.
Act as an important check on power by mobilising public opposition to measures against
sections of the community.…read more

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When a pressure group is lucky enough to have no opposition such as old
age pensioners, poor families and financial establishments, there is a greater chance of
success. E.g. the anti-smoking lobby v. the tobacco industry, the League Against Cruel Sports
v. the Countryside Alliance.
Celebrities ­ celebrities who back pressure groups and publicise their opinions can replace
huge amounts of finance and public support in terms of influence.…read more


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