Unit 1 - AS Edexcel Government and Politics Revision Notes on Pressure Groups

A very condesned set of notes for Unit 1.4 of Alevel Edexcel Politics

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have also made notes on democracy and participation, elections and parties

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Pressure Groups:
Pressure group = an organised group of people which try to influence a specific area of policy
without seeking to hold power itself
Why do people confuse pressure groups with political parties?
MPs often represent pressure groups too
e.g ­ Tom Brake and SOS!
Some pressure groups adopt a broad range of policies
e.g ­ CBI ­ transport, taxation, unemployment, education, EU etc
Some pressure groups have a formal structure and leadership elections
e.g ­ Trade unions ­ NUT, UNITE, FBU
Some pressure groups field candidates to gain publicity
e.g ­ save Kidderminster hospital in 2001 election
Functions of pressure groups:
Pressure groups look after the interests of sections of the public/community as a whole
(e.g ­ National Farmers Union ­ worked with the government when the foot and mouth
disease crisis engulfed the UK)
Political education
Pressure groups seek to raise awareness among the public of politically important issues
(e.g ­ the need to reduce carbon emissions)
Pressure groups are often called on to share their expertise and inform the government
on key matters, leading the government to make decisions more wisely
(e.g ­ the RSPCA inform the government on animal welfare matters)
Pressure groups offer another way in which ordinary people can take part in politics and
make a contribution to democracy
Tension release
Pressure groups can offer a way for discontented citizens to express their feelings
without resorting to violence
(e.g ­ 2003 Stop The War!)
Difference between pressure groups and political parties:
Political parties: Pressure groups:
Try to win power and form a government Do not try to hold governmental power
Must behave responsibly and democratically May act illegally (F4J)
Must make themselves accountable for their Do not have to be accountable for their
decisions decisions
Have a formal organisation with a clear Often have a looser organisation and
hierarchy structure
Adopt policies across the full range of Have narrow goals, concentrating on one
government business policy area or issue

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Classifying pressure groups:
Sectional groups Promotional groups Insider groups Outsider groups
Represent a specific Represent the whole `Inside' the decision `outside' the decision
section of society community making process making process
Selfishly serve the Altruistically work for Regularly consulted Are not consulted by
interests of its the good of society by the government the government
Also known as Also known as Their representatives Put pressure on the
`interest groups' `cause/issue groups' sit on policy advisory government in other
committees ways
Examples: Examples: Examples: Examples:…read more

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Anti-poll tax movement, 1990 (succeeded)
Methods used by pressure groups:
Lobbying MPs ­ PGs lobby MPs on a specific issue or pay them a retaining fee
(e.…read more

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DISADVANTAGE becoming an `insider' group can alienate its members
Are pressure groups good for democracy?
Ways in which PGs ENHANCE democracy Ways in which PGs do not support
PGs often represent groups and causes PGs undermine the authority of elected
that have been ignored by parties officials and parliament
Help disperse power more widely, If they are too powerful, they may create
preventing dangerous concentrations of `hyperpluralism' which can hold up the
power process of government by being too
They help educate and…read more

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­ CBI and the current coalition)
Factors which prevent Pressure Group success:
Outsider status ­ they have less opportunity to shape policy in the early stages (e.g ­ Stop the
War! 2003 held massive demonstrations but was unable to end the war in Iraq)
Tactics ­ selecting the wrong tactics can lose a PG the support of the public (e.…read more

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COUNTER EXAMPLE: Trade Unions were unable to influence Blair's Labour government ­ because
he wanted to maintain the support of business leaders
Insider status ­ insider groups have more opportunity to influence government policies in the
early stages (e.g ­ RSPCA used its insider status to push for the ban on hunting with dogs)
Lack of opposition ­ most pressure groups have an opposition, those who don't, have a
greater chance of success (e.…read more

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Have pressure groups become more important in recent years?
New technology: Government are still the key decision
Easier for NSM's to appear and recruit makers:
members The government chooses which PGs to
Easier for them to coordinate direct listen to
Increased access points: Elections:
Gives pressure groups more Elections are still dominated by political
opportunities to influence decision parties
makers PG membership does not influence how
people vote
Membership to PGs has increased far Many PGs fail
above that of parties, helping…read more




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