Pressure Groups

  • Created by: esumner
  • Created on: 22-02-16 08:57

What is a Pressure Group?

An association that may be informal/formal whose purpose is to further the interests of a specific section of society or to promote a particular cause by influencing government, the public, or both

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Functions of Pressure Groups

1. Educate and inform e.g. Visit schools, TV adverts - NSPCC/ASH

2. Representation of a section of society e.g. Age UK

3. Scrutinise legislation, hold the government to account e.g. BMA scrutinised and helped pass the Health and Social Care Bill in March 2012

4. Encourage political paticipation e.g. Plane Stupid protest against 3rd runway at Heathrow, blocked main tunnel into the airport - successfully campaigned against airport expansion 

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Types of Pressure Groups

Sectional - Represent a specific section of society, closed membership e.g. Trade Unions (NUT)/UK Youth, Age UK, BMA

Promotional - Promote a cause, open membership e.g. Greenpeace, National Trust, CND

Insider - Close relationship with government (BMA Health and Social Care Bill), Involved in decision making and often consulted (National Farmers Union have permanent seats on government policy committes about agricultural policy), Moderate and legal methods with non-controversial aims (ASH ban on smoking with children in car), Under Labour - Trade Unions, Under Tory - CBI, ASH

Outsider - Weak/antagonistic relationship with government (Trade Unions under Tory), unconventional methods of protest (Plane Stupid), Small/new/not of interest (CAMRA)

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Methods of Pressure Groups

1. Parliamentary Methods - some PGs pay fees to MPs so they raise relevant issues in the house, all large PGs have this, more likely to gain support in HoL than HoC, lobbying e.g. Live Music Act 2012/Health and Social Care Bill BMA

2. Direct Action - legal/illegal methods of protest, forces government to respond e.g. fathers 4 justice/Greenpeace destroying GM crops 

3. Mobilising Public Opinion - political parties need to promote issues that will win votes, if PGs can demonstrate to parties that their issues has widespread interst, parties will listen e.g. 2010 - Lib Dems wanted to appeal to younger voters so campaigned against the rise in tuition fees, NUS, UK Youth

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How do Pressure Groups differ from Political Parti


- Some parties have narrow-issue focus e.g. Greens on environment + UKIP on anti-immigration

- Some parties emerged out of Pressure Groups e.g. Labour as Trade Union

- Both aim to represent sections of society of causes e.g. Senior Citizens Party + Age UK


- Pressure Groups have narrow issue focus e.g. Surfers Against Sewage, parties have to cover education, health, welfare, economy 

- Pressure Groups aren't accountable to electorate, parties are e.g. Greenpeace weren't held to account over destroying GM Crops, Lib Dem MP Chris Huhne had to resign over points on license 

- Parties seek political power + make decisions, Pressure Groups influence decision making e.g. BMA influenced but didn't make final decision on Health and Social Care Bill 

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What factors ensure Pressure Group success?

1. Wealth - considerable funding leads to expensive campaigns e.g. CBI had ingluence over Scottish devolution campagin BUT doesnt mean they automatically get success because there might be an unsympathetic goverment 

2. Insider Status - Consulted more regularly, more in depth understanding of government process BUT are restricted to legal methods e.g. BMA influence over Junior Doctor legislation and Health and Social Care Bill

3. Philosophy - when Pressure Groups philosophy is similar to a parties, more likely to be successful e.g. CBI with Tory, Trade Unions with Labour BUT if they have unconventional methods they'll be alienated e.g. Green Party and Greenpeace 

4. Organisation - good organisation leads to successful demonstrationsand higher profile and more awareness e.g. Greenpeace has offices internationally BUT some groups thrive on spontaneity e.g. Student Riots 

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Do Pressure Groups enhance Democracy?


1. Educate public on issues within society, enabling informed decision-making e.g. Jamie Oliver's sugar tax

2. Represent a wide range of interests, including those of minorities e.g. Age UK, UK Youth, Dignity in Dying


1. May concentrate power of create elites e.g. CBI controlled by big businesses, allowing no margin for others, power not widely dispersed 

2. Not accountable for actions and can therefore disrupt the governing process e.g. Greenpeace destroying GM crops

3. Can be promblematic for democracy as they themselves are often internally undemocratic e.g. Greenpeace leader Wyn Grant has all the power, grassroots dont count and chequebook members dont contribute to proceedings e.g. NUS and National Trust 

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What is the link between Elitism and Pressure Grou

- Elitism = the distribution of power in society, suggests that some Pressure Groups may be more important than others

- The groups could have greater connection than others or greater wealth

- Suggests that some groups may be excluded from the process because of their lack of power 

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What is Pluralist Democracy?

- Form of democracy which sees participation via organised groups

- Pressure Groups are agents for change in society

- Requires widespread dispersal of power

- Government under pluralism is fair

- Contrasts with Elitism 

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Why do Pressure Groups use different methods?

1. To reach a wide audience - wealthier pressure groups can pay for adverts e.g. National Trust uses the press, NUS gives discount cards to students 

2. To make use of insider status - e.g. NFU has close contact with government, BMA Health and Social Care Bill 2012

3. To reflect outsider status - some outsider groups know the government won't pay attention to what they do so they carry out high profile stunts to capture public attention e.g. Fathers 4 Justice 

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How do Pressure Groups influence the government?

1. Insider groups are close with the government and are heavily involved with decision making and are often consulted e.g. BMA health and social care bill

2. Lobbying - Pressure Groups can lobby MPs to change laws, they get in touch with Ministers and Lords and try to persuade them to support their ideas e.g. David Cameron addressed a conference at the CBI 

3. Protests and Campaigns - e.g. Hunting Ban to stop fox hunting/Greenpeace destroying GM crops 

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Are the largest Pressure Groups the most successfu


1. Bigger size brings bigger political voice e.g. National Trust/RSPB have lots of legislators listen to their campaign BUT student fees campaign didnt work

2. Momentum achieved by large, well organised groups often means government has to listen e.g. National Trust and BMA


1. Status can be bigger than importance e.g. insider groups have direct access to power - BMA

2. Having celeb endorsement can make up for small membership e.g. Joanna Lumley's campaign for post-war Gurkhas/Jamie Oliver's Sugar Tax

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Have Pressure Groups been more or less successful


1. Growth in number and diversity - easier means of forming and communicating messages via internet, easier to alert the public e.g. RAC petition on government website against introduction of road pricing

2. Increase in issues e.g. Gender and multiculturalism 


1. Lack of success via protests e.g. The Countryside Alliance has not stopped ban on hunting, Stop the War coalition didnt prevent or end the Iraq War, Jamie Oliver's sugar tax was refused 

2. Diminished Trade Union power and fall in number 

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This was super helpful! thank you so much

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