Government and Politics: People and Politics

Topic 4: pressure groups

  • Created by: caroline
  • Created on: 14-01-13 09:27

What is a pressure group?

*organised group of people united by common cause or topic

*wish to influence g'ment/change the policies and views of g'ment

*also seek to change the opinions and views of the general public

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What is a sectional/interest pressure group?

*have common uniting feature of the group members - often econmoic interests 

*can represent same social group or if they suffer from the same disease

*examplay: -unite (britain's biggest trade union rep's general workers), AA (rep's interests of motorists), Forest (defends the rights and interests of tobacco smokers, NFU (farmers)

*tend to be self interested - mainly concerned with their own interest - however sometimes such with the teachers union believe that their member's interests and the societies are the same

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What is a pressure/issue/cause pressure group?

*uniting feature is definied by commonly held beliefs/causes

*e.g. wildlife, environment, child welfare

*promo groups tend to be interested in the interests of the whole community

*examplay: Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Liberty (strengthening individual rights), RSPCA

should be noted: some p.g's don't fit exactly into either category - these groups represent both a section and an issue e.g. the NSPCC   

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What is an inside group?

definition created by Wyn Grant

defined as having a close and established relationship with g'ment

*in a sense confers a type of legitimacy/acceptance of the group - seems to be an advantage

consulted regularly by g'ment - involved the in the early development of legislation

*EU keeps a register of pressure groups which have special access to policy-making

*may have rep's on pemanent policy advising committees

examplays: BMA (advised coalition g'ment on NHS reform issues), NFU (consulted by bother the EU and UK g'ment on agricultural issues)

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What is an outside group?

in contrast have no established working patterns w/ g'ment

*seen as being outside the g'ment decision making

*less likely to have views taken into account - makes it harder for them to achieve success

may have o. status for many reasons - not established enough, may not wish to be insiders as it'd limit their independence/don't want to be accountable for actions

*Greenpeace, Taxpayer's Alliance (relatively new group, tends to be hostile to g'ment, so not granted insider status)

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What are some of the functions of pressure groups?

sectional groups: act to protect and safeguard the interests of their members - most clear with prof groups and trade unions

help g'ment to make decisions. on specialist areas g'ment will consult a particular p.g. for their expertise e.g. if a mjor initiative takes place in agriculture, they will consult the NFU

*inform and educate - keep public up to date with what is happening and relevant information

*offer a means of representation which supplements the electoral system

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What are some distinctions between political parti

parties seek to gain power (be g'ment or achieve a share in g'ment) - pressure groups seek to influence but not to govern

pressure groups are concerned with a narrow range of issues (sometimes only one). political parties must develop policies across the whole range of g'mental business as they seek to govern.

e.g the Green Party began as an environmental pressure group - when it became a party it had to develop wider policies

*as parties seek to govern, they need to be accountable for their actions and policies - (outsider) pressure groups do not have to be accountable on the other hand

political parties are very formally organised - need to organise campaigning etc. Some pressure groups do have formal organisation however many do not.

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What are some of pressure groups objectives?

influence policy and decision makers at all levels

*sponser new policies and legislation

prevent unfair legislation from being implemented

*defend (legal) rights of its members

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What are some methods used by pressure groups?

e.g. to influence policy - would seek insider status, ask insiders, lobby ministers, seek to influence policy makers, seek to be involved in policy making - NFU, Mencap

e.g. to raise public awareness and place issues on the public agenda - organise publicity campaign in the media, organise large demonstrations, internet campaign, publicity stunts - Greenpeace, RSPCA, Liberty

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What is the difference between pluralism and elits

Pluralism: belief that power is evenly and widely spread in society. many pressure groups can and do contribute to the political process. open access to information.

Elitism: belief that power is restricted and lies in the power of the establishment (rich and powerful). few pressure groups contribute to the poltical process.

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Evidence that pressure groups demonstrate pluralis

*lots of pressrure groups

*increasingly easy for them to express views

*listen to pressure groups and act on their concerns

*no one pressure group is all powerul and dominatory over others

*power is dispersed and shared out in society

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Evidence that pressure groups demonstrate elitism

*may be many p.g's but only a few really matter

*some groups have more access to more info than others

*some groups so strong, they dominant the political environment

*only a small, elite, no. of pressure groups will succeed

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How can a pressure group be successful?

resources (financial, organisational - give the group an ability to mount a major campaign) - e.g. countryside alliance who organised mass demonstations in London

insider status - being established in g'ment circles and well trusted - e.g. action on smoking and health - a series of pieces of legislation to deter and reduce smoking

tactics - good formula for influecning g'ment

sharing the same agenda as the g'ment - significant when campaigning for a change

lack of opposition - e.g. make poverty history

*favourable circumstances -action on smoking and health was helped by reductions in cases of lung cancer following anti-smoking legislation

celebrity involvement e.g. Kony2012 - targeted 20 influenctial celebrities such as rihanna and ellen degeneres to spread the message

*strategic postion

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Why pressure groups are important

increasing membership numbers - p/p membership is failling

*increased in number and range

*profile now constantly in the media - more people aware of them

*achieved notable success

public seek political change

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Why pressure groups are not important

*increasing numbers - splitting the issue w/ separate groups for the pro and against stance e.g. pro-life (anti abortion) and pro-abortion

*even though size and membership is important - political parties hold real power where as p.g's can only seek to influence

*far more p/g's failed than been successful

*put their self-interest first

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How do pressure groups support democracy?

the most important aspect between r/ship between p/gs and democracy is the extent to which pressure groups disperse or concentrate power

*p/gs often represent groups/causes that've been ignored by g'ment

*help to educate and inform

*provide outlet for public grievances ('tension release')

*act as opposition to g'ment

*proivde ways in which people can participate in politics

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How do pressure groups not support democracy?

undermine authority of elected officals and parliament

'politics of self interest'

wealthy pressure groups have more influence - elitism

;eadership of elitist groups may not correspond with views of members

*lack elective legitimacy

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Naomi Arnold


thank you, this is great! do you have notes like this for the other topics in AS politics?



very helpful. Thank you.

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