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Why do some pressure groups have more success than others?
Defining success when it comes to pressure groups:
Have they managed to change/influence government policy? (policy-making
Have they successfully made the public aware of an issue/pushed it up in the
political agenda? (agenda-setting power)
Have they changed public perception/opinions/behaviour towards an issue?
Theories of power distribution between among pressure groups.
The idea that political power is The idea that many different groups
concentrated in the hands of the exist in society and power is spread
elite few. evenly among them rather than
In terms of pressure groups, the being only in the hands of a few.
elitism theory says that pressure Pluralism says that pressure groups
groups serve to concentrate power are good for democracy because
and strengthen people who are they enable healthy debate and
powerful anyway. educate by bringing issues to the
public agenda. No group is more
dominant than another because it
will always be challenged by another
Factors affecting the success of pressure groups
Wealthier pressure groups generally hold a greater influence because they have financial
and economic power, so the government has to listen to them. Business groups in
particular tend to do well. (eg Banking groups, BP Oil, Supermarket chains, Mobile
Source of employment and economic investment so makes sense for the
government to listen to them.
Source of expertise on the economy/trade/employment so governments listen to
their advice in economic policy-making.
Wealthy groups can employ professional lobbyists and can make donations to
They have access to the media and can fund their own advertising campaigns,
giving themselves a good public profile.
EXAMPLE: In the year after the 2010 election, half of the Conservative Party's donations
were from City sources, in the hope that the government would remain lenient towards
bankers and financial regulation.
In contrast, 'prisoner groups', pressure groups which are funded/supported by the
government, are in a place of potentially less power because they rely on the
government for funding and could lose it if they did something contrary to the wishes of
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Size of pressure group
According to pluralists, bigger pressure groups are more powerful because they believe
power is democratically based. There are definitely some advantages to having a big
If a pressure group has masses of supporters, they can claim to represent the
opinion of the general public. In this case the government has to listen to them
really or they could lose voters.
Membership means more funding and donations.…read more
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Groups with greater public support enjoy a greater influence than those with only
a small amount of support.
Governments have to listen to groups with popular support quite frankly because
they will potentially lose out on voters if they ignore such a large amount of the
Eg success of Snowdrop campaign for banning of handguns was aided significantly
by the public outrage at a massacre in a Dunblane school in 1996.…read more