Politics - Pressure Groups

  1. What is a Pressure Group?
  2. Key Concepts
  3. How do they effect Democracy?
  4. Why are they on the increase?
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What is a Pressure Group

An organised group which has as one of its purposes the need to exert influence or pure pressure on political institutions for the purpose of seeking a favorable decision or preventing an unfavorable one. they seek influence rather than political power and are outside rather than inside the government.

Pressure Groups can be categorized in the following ways, Interest/Sectional groups or Promotional/Cause/Issue Groups. And they can be either Insider or Outsider Groups. They operate within Pluralist government systems.

More recently there has been an increase in N.S.M's or New Social Movements. which appear as a reaction to a specific issue of importance and usually disappear when the issue is over, such as Make Poverty History.

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Key Concepts

Sectional/Interest Groups - A P.G that represents a specific section of society, such as a trade union or an employers’ association.

Promotional/Cause/Issue Groups - A P.G that seeks to promote a cause rather than the interests of its members.

Insider Groups - P.G’s that operate within the political system through contacts with ministers, M.P’s, peers and official committees. They are regularly consulted by the government.

Outsider Groups - P.G with no special links with the government but seeks to influence decision makers by mobilising public opinion. Often this is done through direct action.

Pluralism - A Political system where a wide range of beliefs, ideologies and ideas are tolerated and allowed to flourish. It also implies a society where many different groups are free to operate.

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Characteristics of a Pressure Group

· Influence those in Power

· Organise and use different tactics to highlight cause

· Lobby politicians

· Don’t seek elected office

· Narrow concern of interests (unlike pol. Pty’s)

· Recruit Members

· Can be Large or Small

· Extra Parliamentary organisations (not Anti-Parliamentary -> IRA)

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Different channels of access

- Legislative, Parliament &M.P’s

- Executive, Government

- European Government

- UK Political Pty’s

- Media public (chattering classes)

- Local Government

- Courts –> Appeal...

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Pressure Groups and Democracy ( )

1) They highlight the interest of minority groups

2) Inform politicians about public opinion

3) Encourage political participation

4) Can occasionally (more effectively) educate the public on a specific issue

5) Make democracy more legitimate by getting people involved

6) Are able to criticise the government, freedom of speech, safe guard against an overbearing government.

7) Maintain people’s freedoms (speech, movement...)

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Pressure Groups and Democracy (-)

1) Some P.G’s have disproportionate power/influence. Such as certain sectional groups – NFU, BMA, ACPO, Refuse Collectors union (1976)

2) Unequal amounts of money meaning that the information from one side of an argument can be more effectively spread than that of the other side (Bernie Ecclestone – racing)

3) Self interested, not concerned with national issues – Oil pressure groups vs. Environmental issues

4) Don’t have democratic characteristics, such as unelected, unaccountable leaders.

5) Secrecy- P.G’s don’t always act in full public view

6) The size of the group can distort the democratic process. Country Side Alliance – Doesn’t represent society

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Insider Groups

P.G’s that operate within the political system through contacts with ministers, M.P’s, peers and official committees. They're regularly consulted by the government and asked to sit on special committees.

CBI, Confederation of British Industry (feed back to the government what the industries are thinking and they're performing on certain issues.) RNIB, Royal National Institute for the Blind (inform Government how certain issues will affect Blind individuals - Post office) NFU, National Farmers Union (advise government on environmental/agricultural issues)

Some are set up and funded by the government, known as "ultra-insider" groups. an example is the CRE, Commission for Racial Equality ( advise the government on issues concerning racial equality - at workplace, schools police force etc.)

--- Can be seen to loose their integrity, objectivity and/or independence as they are then forced to adapt their methods and abstain from illegal activities.

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Outsider Groups

They have no special links with the government but seeks to influence decision makers by mobilising public opinion. Often this is done through direct action.

Some choose to be outsider groups in order to maintain their independence and the ability to campaign anyway they choose (Green Peace, F4J) this may be in the form of direct action in order to gain publicity; such as civil disobedience, illegal stunts.

Some want to be insider but haven't managed this can be for a number of reasons, their aims conflict with the government (FOREST T.U's had a good relationship with the Govt before M.T but have since been "frozen out" almost entirely) or they might lack - experience, money, contracts "too young"

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New Social Movements (NSM's)

They can be either Cause or Sectional. They're often informal and concerned with mass demonstrations and media campaigns. There have been an increasing number recently as it has gotten easier to mobilise them due to new technology such as mobile phones and the Internet. They are not normally organised in the traditional manner.Anti-pol tax Federation (led to lots of riots, refusal to pay. the mass movement lead to its scrapping) Anti-Iraq Coalition (lots of organisations joined together in attempt to prevent the war) Make Poverty History (G8 Summit, Live 8, White Band Day)

· Appear on political scene very quickly

· Mass movements with thousands of instant followers

· Concerned with one or very few issues

·Often temporary

· Methods are striking and flamboyant – sometimes illegal

· Loose organisations – informal

· Supporters feel passionately about the issue

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Why are Pressure Groups becoming more influential?

- Politics has become more issue based and personality focused

-public appear disenchanted with pty politics (low voter turnout, decrease in ptymembership) leaving room for P.G's to fill the gap.

- more access points for P.G's to influence decision making such as devolved powers (Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh) and Europe (Brussels)

- The Human Rights Act has made it easier for them to take issues to Court for a ruling

- Increase in direct action as its seen as being just as influential as having close links with the government.

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